Latest case in point: The proposed 305-acre Richland Creek Reservoir in Paulding County, one of first eight water-supply projects to win funding support as part of the Gov. Nathan Deal’s envisioned $300 million program to beef up the state’s water supply, especially in the Atlanta bedroom regions.
The Paulding plan got $29.1 million for, as Joe Cook of the Coosa River Basin Initiative was quick and correct to point out, a reservoir that doesn’t even have the necessary permits yet. He also added that it might even be less important now than when first proposed as, in the interim, the federal courts have upheld the Atlanta region’s right to take drinking water out of Lake Lanier and thus, by implication, from Lake Allatoona that serves Paulding.
Being good neighbors, let’s concede Paulding residents could use a more certain and accessible water supply. Let’s also concede that their moving to Floyd County where all the water they’d ever need — and for growth too — already exists would mean a longer commute to Atlanta jobs. At the same time, why are Floyd Countians supposed to be paying for part of this reservoir bill?
FIRST, WHERE in a state constantly pleading poverty and cutting its budget is such reservoir money coming? Bonds, of course. Who pays off the principal and interest on bonds? All state taxpayers, including those in Greater Rome. We’ll be helping to finance a plan that could also wind up increasing our own water/sewer bills.
As Leigh Ross, the local water/sewer director pointed out, eventually the new sucking sound from the Etowah River that Paulding plans to make could lower river levels in this vicinity by two inches. Since degree of wastewater treatment necessary is influenced by how much water is left in the local rivers to dilute the stuff, Ross warned, that means more intensive treatment could be necessary. That would cost extra money meaning area water/sewer rates would have to be raised to cover the expense.
Floyd Countians will be asked to help pay off a $89 million (total) reservoir elsewhere that may at the same time result in their paying higher water rates to deal with the local negative impact. Is this the meaning of the saying that government has got you coming and going?
And oh, why is Paulding so eager to capture water released from behind the Allatoona Dam? Because now it has to pay Cobb County’s Water Authority for that same water when it is in the lake. Thus, Floyd Countians are going to be asked to ante up more for water so Paulding can cut its own water bills by not having to buy the stuff from Cobb any longer!
IN THESE circumstances it becomes even more valid to ask what the state has done for Greater Rome residents lately. Let’s see, it took away 750 jobs (closing Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in the worst single negative local blow of the ongoing recession) and for three years in a row has refused to grant $7.5 million in bonds to help with the Tennis Center of Georgia.
Four years ago, when this Richland Creek boondoggle was first floated during the rule of now gone and disgraced House Speaker Glenn Richardson of Paulding County this newspaper remarked that: “The fallacies inherent in believing that more reservoirs alone will remedy a water-supply shortage largely confined to the Atlanta metropolitan area is nowhere more apparent than in Paulding County’s quest ...”
The Paulding project is basically to provide that region with 35 million gallons a day — three times what Rome uses from the Oostanaula River — by pulling up to 41 million gallons a day from the Etowah River below the dam creating Lake Allatoona. (The difference is largely evaporation loss.)
Much to the chagrin of some environmentalists, this paper is not against all reservoirs … just really, really dumb and useless ones.
THIS ONE is about as dumb as it gets, not for Paulding so much as for “the big picture” of Atlanta’s metropolitan water-supply problem. This not a reservoir. It is filling a water jug from your neighbor’s tap and putting it by your armchair so, in case you get thirsty while watching TV, you don’t have to walk all the way to the kitchen to use your own where it would cost you money.
The reason the Etowah’s flow past Rome could be reduced by all this is that Paulding only treats and returns about 18 million of those 35 million gallons it uses daily. Almost 90 percent of Paulding residences are still on septic systems. Floyd Countians might have to pay more for flushing their own toilets (most unincorporated population clusters here are served by Rome’s wastewater system) because Paulding apparently has never invested in sewer lines and treatment plant capacity.
Thus because they haven’t wanted to pay for such things it is now up to Greater Romans to cover the cost of their refusal?
Now, as good neighbors, if the state wanted to kick in $29 million to help Paulding get started on a massive sewer/wastewater upgrade that might be a different matter although, frankly, still not this region’s responsibility. Let’s just figure such kindness might convince their legislators to add their voices to tennis center funding. Someday Georgians will figure out that they may not all fish from the same lake but that they’re all in the same boat.
IF PAULDING thus winds up treating another 17-18 million gallons of wastewater daily that would mean it could build its reservoir in the future, just for the comfort of keeping a jug around, and in the process return as much to the Etowah as it takes out.
For Paulding to advocate, and the state to ask Greater Romans to help pay for, something that could wind up negatively impacting both the environment and wallets so far downstream of this project is ludicrous. It is further evidence of a notable trend in recent years as regard Northwest Georgia: If area taxpayers have any role in state affairs it increasingly seems limited to paying the bills of others.
If we do have legislators — a rumor — they sure are quiet about such matters.
Guess they don’t know that “no more taxes” should include not having to pay off the bonded indebtedness of others nor paying more for our own water because others won’t have to pay for theirs. If there’s going to be a tea party held around here it might be good to start out with knowing brewing such up starts with water.