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Bear Creek dam site to move

What it means to you

County officials agreed Tuesday to move the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir dam 600 feet upstream. That will save $2.5 million and not affect the level of the lake; in addition, Henderson Mill Road will not have to be closed, demolished and rebuilt along the top of the new dam as originally planned.

Bear with some small changes to the Bear Creek Reservoir’s location, because it’ll mean the roads around it won’t have to close during its construction.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to push the location of the planned reservoir’s dam upstream 600 feet — which doesn’t sound like much until one considers that the original dam would’ve been located downstream of Henderson Mill Road.

Built in its original location, it would have required the destruction and relocation of the road, county attorney W. Thomas Craig told the commissioners.

Worse, it would have meant relocating the road to the top of the dam.

The county recently asked Schnabel Engineering to study the dam. Engineer Joe Monroe said his company recommended moving the dam 600 feet upstream, which would leave the road alone, preserve 4,525 linear feet of rocky creek, and leave untouched 3.7 acres of valuable natural wetland.

Thing is, moving the dam doesn’t affect the acreage of the lake. The original plan called for a reservoir for drinking water 1,242 acres in size, Craig said, but it was designed using old global positioning technology. A review of the original plan using new GPS systems showed the original plan would flood 1,304 acres. Moving the dam restores it to 1,244 acres, or almost equal to the original plan.

Landowners along the reservoir’s future shores will see no change in where the waves will someday be, Craig said; their lakefront homes, when built, will still be lakefront.

Best of all, the proposed change in the dam’s location will save at least $2.5 million, Craig said, calling that a “conservative estimate.” Construction savings will be at least $1.34 million. Engineering for a dam with a smaller crest and no road atop it will save $1.13 million.

The company that originally planned the dam is no longer in business, Craig said.

The change in location will impact only one landowner — the Gaithers United Methodist Church. Craig said church leaders have expressed support of the dam’s move.

The reservoir is not fully permitted, however. The county will submit its plan for the dam’s relocation to the U.S. Corps of Engineers in August, Craig said. The Corps has promised to notify all property owners along the banks of the reservoir of the changes (50 of the 183 affected properties are owned by the county), and allow 15 days for people to make comments in writing. No public hearing is planned.

Whenever construction starts, Craig and county water resources director Jason Nord have both said previously it will take 10 years before water begins to be produced; the dam must be built, followed by the water treatment plant and piping infrastructure. Nord said the reservoir could probably produce water in seven years if the project was rushed.

Other costs
A $21 million state loan will cover about two-thirds of the construction cost of the actual reservoir and dam, which is expected to conservatively cost a total of $32.5 million, Craig has said, noting it could be significantly lower. The loan was awarded by the Governor’s Water Supply Program; the actual money comes from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The 40-year loan calls for 0 percent interest for the first three years of construction and 1 percent interest for any construction time after that. For the remainder of the 40 years, the interest rate will be 1.82 percent, with the first seven years consisting of interest-only payments and the remaining years of principal and interest payments. There are also no loan closing fees.

Assuming that construction only takes 36 months, then for the first seven years at a 1.82 percent interest rate, the county would have to pay $382,200 per year. For years eight and on, the county would have to $852,083 per year.

Craig has said the project will cost somewhere around $64 million, maybe less.

The need
Newton County has two water-drinking reservoirs. The primary reservoir is Lake Varner; the actual water treatment plant for Lake Varner is called the Cornish Creek plant. City Pond is a much older and smaller reservoir; the water treatment plant for City Pond is called the Williams Street plant. Both reservoirs can be supplied with water pumped out of the Alcovy River.

The Cornish Creek plant can produce 25 million gallons per day (MGD). The Williams Street plant can treat a maximum of 4 MGD.

County officials say the water held in the Bear Creek Reservoir will be entirely Newton County’s. Walton County owns 25 percent of the water in Lake Varner.

Baxter Pharmaceuticals is expected to use a million gallons of water per day when it’s up and running.


To View Tuesday night's BOC public meeting click here.