Water was a hot topic of conversation in Newton County this week, capped by a very public Board of Commissioners work session Wednesday.
County Attorney Tommy Craig, who is handling the 1,242-acre Bear Creek Reservoir project, gave about an hour long presentation to the BOC and estimated 100 audience members at the Historic Courthouse.
Craig laid out details of the project such as his experience with other reservoir projects, information on the Bear Creek project, estimated population numbers for Newton County, why a reservoir is needed, costs and agency commitments.
In the 1980’s Craig said Newton County did an alternatives analysis for what is now the Lake Varner Reservoir project, which said Bear Creek was the second best place in the county to construct a reservoir.
During the drought of 1996-98, the Alcovy River went dry causing dramatic shortage of water, and opening eyes to the need of more water reserves. That fear opened the way for a SPLOST to build the Varner Lake Reservoir.
“Every major industry in town needed water and was drilling ground wells seven days a week and 24 hours a day,” Craig said.
He then laid out the low points of Varner Lake during the drought of record in Georgia, in 2007. Drought numbers were highlighted, followed by population estimates of Newton County in 2030 and 2050. Craig laid out three different population estimates, showing 361,150 in 2050 by the Corps of Engineers, 371,631 by the Mid Ocmulgee Regional Water Council and 400,000 by 2050 according to the 2050 Plan.
Craig then displayed pictures of Lake Varner’s low water lines and exposed pumps.
Following the lay out of the need for more water reserves, Craig then showed slides of his power point presentation
He told the BOC the project would cost $126 million total for water treatment improvements.
Before opening the presentation to questions, Craig told the BOC and the public of steps needed to be taken. If Newton County decided to go through with the project, needed yet to be done is to: Secure the permit, which is good for a minimum of five years; meet with local governments; consider beginning a two-year dam design; assess change in demand over two years; consider soliciting construction bids; evaluate affordability and how to pay for the project.
Craig’s presentation went into details on some of the topics important to the BOC and Newton County residents.
More details on the potential Bear Creek Reservoir can be found in Sunday’s print edition of The Covington News.