Dade County Water and Sewer Authority votes not to move forward on the Lookout Creek Reservoir. The board issued the following press release on the vote.

October 19, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IN RE: DADE COUNTY RAW WATER HOLDING POND

Dade County and the Dade County Water Authority (the “Authority”) entered into an intergovernmental agreement on December 6, 2018 so that these parties could purchase, and attempt to develop a holding pond, adjacent to Lookout Creek, which presently serves as the Water Authority’s source of drinking water for its customers in Dade County. The hope of this Water Impoundment Project (the “Project”) was to increase the water storage capacity for Dade County’s hopeful growth in population, and perhaps some form of recreational amenities to the citizens of the County.

Pursuant to the intergovernmental agreement, the County has paid $100,000 toward the purchase of the property and the Water Authority obtained a loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to pay the balance of the purchase price. Toward the end of the initial COVID pandemic, the Authority began significant due diligence to determine if the Project could move forward successfully to build this impoundment. The Authority employed Mike McRae, who has years of significant experience regarding representation of Water Authorities and involvement in similar projects such as the one contemplated in Dade County; along with Rick Whiteside of Corblu Ecology Group (he has a lot of experience with permitting issues concerning water impoundments) to accomplish background due diligence, together with Authority personnel, concerning the viability of the Project.

The results of this work are:
1. Several regional reservoir projects, although more extensive than the Dade County Project, have had significant problems with BOTH the permitting process (which includes a requirement of a “Section 404” of the Clean Water Act Permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) requirements for approval. A fact sheet concerning the Paulding County and Carroll County reservoir projects is attached as examples of the complications of the permitting process.

  1. In addition to the 404 Permit, the Authority would have to obtain a Certificate of Need (CON) from EPD proving that the Project is needed to serve increases in population in Dade County. The 2020 Dade County Census Population indicated that the total County population is 16,251 residents, which is down slightly from the 2010 Census. Thus, rather than the Paulding County explosion in population, the Dade County population has remained constant. Federal and State water conservation requirements have also mandated that general consumer water consumption be lowered. As a result although the State has permitted withdrawals from Lookout Creek for the Authority of 3.8 million gallons per day, the average daily withdrawal is approximately 2 million gallons. Thus, there has not been an increase in population or consumption in Dade County that would potentially mandate the need for new water impoundment storage sources.
  2. The Federal and State Authorities who review this permitting process have as a major part of their consideration regarding water storage projects, “what type of project will have the least environmental impact”. Due to environmental impacts in connection with several projects in the region reviewed by the Authority, the Corblu Ecology group was employed to provide a study as to whether there would be wetlands impacts regarding the federal permitting process. Their report is also attached. There are wetlands that would be impacted by the Project and the mitigation required would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.39 acres or 4,273 linear feet which is equivalent to 19.86 mitigation credits. There is no wetlands conservation bank in the region and the costs of mitigation (which was $10 Million in Paulding) certainly could exceed $1.5 to $2 Million in Dade.
  3. The entire area of the proposed impoundment is in the flood zone. Since this would change the FEMA flood map, this would impact homes, businesses and schools in the area. If the environmental impact of holding water in the flood zone was seriously challenged by the Federal and/or State permitting authorities, it could be years before the permitting process even reached the level of some form of final review.
  4. In addition to wetlands mitigation, if some endangered species were found, or there were other problems in obtaining the permit, then remedying these problems would delay the Project significantly and could increase the cost of attempting to accomplish it.
  5. It was discovered by Corblu that part of the soils in the area might not be suitable for retention of water in the permanent pool area.
  6. With these environmental concerns, significant unknown costs, and the lack of growth in Dade County, the cost to the citizens of the City and County would be prohibitive to even attempt this permitting process.

CONCLUSION
For these reasons, the Authority has chosen to not move forward with the process.
While it is very unfortunate that this Project could not move forward, as shown by the examples attached, it is the Authority’s unanimous opinion that this is the best decision for the citizens of the County and the rate payers for water service. Questions concerning this decision should be directed to Sherri Walker, Authority Manager at 250 Broad Street, P.O. Box 1047, Trenton, Georgia 30752; (706) 657-4341; or [email protected]

CORBLU RESERVOIR STUDY – (CLICK HERE)