After the public comment period ended in February, the USACE sent the comments to Paulding to be addressed.
Paulding responded in April and is gathering additional information for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Environmental Protection Agency.
They also are working with the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency "to arrive on a low flow protection value for the Etowah River that will satisfy our needs and maintain a protected flow in the river that continues to support both environmental needs and the needs of downstream users of the water," Carter said.
Once that's done, the county will submit its water withdrawal application to EPD.
"We are also in conversation with US Fish and Wildlife concerning protection of threatened and endangered species on the project (i.e Cherokee Darters)," Carter said.
Meanwhile, the county is reviewing proposals from engineering teams and expects to select one within the next month or so to start preliminary engineering. That will provide better cost-estimates, Carter said. Design work is scheduled to start in early 2013.
The state loan gives the county money to complete the design work, buy environmental mitigation credits, acquire easements and additional land, and begin construction as soon as all required permits are obtained.
"The $29.1 million loan does not fully fund the project, so we are still looking at other funding sources. But, it does put us much closer to being able to fulfill the future water needs of Paulding County," Carter said.
Paulding County’s plans to build a reservoir off the Etowah River upstream of Rome just got a $29.1 million boost from the state.
The proposed 305-acre Richland Creek Reservoir is one of eight water supply projects awarded funding through the Governor’s Water Supply Program. Gov. Nathan Deal has committed $300 million to the program over four years.
Richland Creek Reservoir is designed to pull about 40 million gallons a day of water from the river below Lake Allatoona, near the Bartow County line. Only about 18 million gallons a day of treated wastewater would be returned.
Rome and Cartersville officials registered concerns during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ public comment period in January. A permit for the impoundment has not yet been issued, and environmental groups are challenging the need.
Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said a recent court ruling that Lake Lanier may be used as a water supply means it’s likely Lake Allatoona will be able to supply Paulding into the future.
“For the state to invest $29 million in this project before it’s received the necessary permits is a very unwise use of our tax dollars,” Cook said. “It’s a gamble on a project that may not be needed.”
The Rome City Commission has asked the Corps to schedule an open public hearing before a decision is made.
Water and Sewer Director Leigh Ross said the withdrawal could force Rome to spend more to treat its wastewater, which would lead to an increase in sewer rates.
“The regulations allowing the city to put treated wastewater back into the river are directly related to the river’s ability to assimilate it,” Ross said.
“The more water we have in the river, the less we’ll be affected.”
Ross said the reservoir could benefit downstream communities, but Paulding officials won’t build it large enough for water releases to boost the Etowah’s flow during droughts.
The Cartersville City Council cited Paulding’s refusal when it passed a resolution in January opposing the project.
Their main objection, however, is that — because of Paulding’s geography and limited sewer system — most of the withdrawn water would be recycled into the Chattahoochee River basin.
“They’re only going to be drawing during peak flow,” said Mayor Matt Santini. “We don’t see it as a problem as long as they put the water back in the Etowah, highly treated. Otherwise, it would be an interbasin transfer, which we oppose.”
Paulding County Commission Chairman David Austin has said a dependable water supply is key to Paulding’s future. He called the Richland Creek Reservoir a top priority during his recent, successful, re-election campaign.
Neither Austin nor Paulding Water and Sewer Director Michael Carter could be reached for comment Thursday.
The state is providing a 40-year, low-interest loan of $29.1 million toward the $86.4 million reservoir.
Link to Paulding County’s Richland Creek Reservoir website