By REBECCA HAZEN
The Dade County Water and Sewer Authority held a special meeting and discussed in executive session to not move forward with the water reservoir project, on Monday, Oct. 18.
The 61-acre tract of land on Sells Lane was purchased in December 2018. It was purchased jointly by the Water and Sewer Authority and the county.
According to General Manager Sherri Walker, the county paid $100,000 toward the purchase of the property and the Water Authority obtained a loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to pay $400,000, for a total of $500,000.
Corblu Ecology Group was selected to perform a feasibility study. The Authority also employed attorney Michael McRae from Cedartown.
The findings of the study are as followed:
1. Several regional reservoir projects have had significant problems with both the permitting process, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) requirements for approval.
2. 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 are down slightly from the 2010 census. Federal and state water conservation requirements have also mandated that general consumer water consumption be lowered.
3. 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.” 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 certainly could exceed $1.5 to $2 million in Dade.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
“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, 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,” Chair Eddie Cantrell said.
“The ball would be in the county’s court now. We would have been responsible for any reservoir issues or anything water related, and they would have taken up recreation if there had been any. We can’t move forward in good faith, and now we are waiting on a response from the commission. I would assume at some point we would have to have another meeting, to decide the fate of the property,” Walker said.
In the intergovernmental agreement, signed by County Executive Ted Rumley and Douglas Anderton, General Manager, on Dec. 6, 2018, a paragraph states, “Should both parties agree that the development of the Sells Lane tract for purposes of a water reservoir has become impracticable or impossible, and that the Sells Lane tract should be sold, the Water Authority shall be entitled to receive 80 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the property and the county shall be entitled to receive 20 percent from the net proceeds.”
The agreement goes on to say, “For a period of three years following the execution of this agreement, either party to this agreement may purchase the interest in the Sells Lane tract upon a tender of payment to the non-purchasing party of all amounts that the non-purchasing party has previously paid for the purchase of the Sells Lane tract and upon a resolution duly adopted expressing the purchasing party’s intent to purchase full interest in the Sells Lane tract. The non-purchasing party shall then have 30 days from the date the money is tendered and the passage of the resolution in which to agree to the purchase or to give notice of its objection.”
County Executive Ted Rumley was on the Water and Sewer Authority board at the time the land was purchased. According to Rumley, the Water Authority had been trying to purchase the property on Sells Lane since the late 1960s. Rumley believes that the county should hold on to the land, and a reservoir project could possibly be restarted at a later time.
Rumley provided the Sentinel a copy of a letter from Bobby Nolan, the Water Authority’s consulting engineer in 2005, to Douglas Anderton, in Jan. 2018.
“For long-term water supplies, the [Strategic] Plan discussed a water reservoir on Lookout Creek at the old mill site, deep wells in the south part of the county, and water purchase from Tennessee-American. Based on a preliminary analysis of each alternative, the mill site reservoir would prove the most feasible, cost-effective resource for the county to develop as an independent, long-term water supply,” the letter says.
“It was a whole different board when the project was started, and they have different ideas now. It is not a piece of property that should be sold. It’s not a cheap project to do. It’s just expensive. You would run into this in any kind of reservoir project. It’s not to say that it can’t be built there, it can be,” Rumley said.
Rumley continued, “It needs to be kept for the future of Dade County. One day, if we do start growing, it would be crazy to sell property like that. Who knows in 10 years what the needs would be?”
The findings from the complete Corblu study can be found at mydadewater.com, by clicking on “News & Notices” and then “Recent News.”
Questions about this decision should be directed to Sherri Walker at (706) 657-4341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.