In a 10-page letter with 68 pages of attachments, Newton County Attorney W. T. “Tommy” Craig told Edward B. Johnson Jr., Chief of the Piedmont Branch of the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers the number of project managers assigned to oversee the county’s 404 permit for the proposed Bear Creek Supply Reservoir, which began in 2000, may had caused confusion and misunderstanding.
“The lack of continuity in the Corps’ management of the application procession explains much of the Savannah District’s confusion and misunderstanding regarding this project,” he wrote. “Beyond confusion, the frequent turnover of project managers has greatly increased the cost of processing the 404 application.
“To date, Newton County has spent over $21 million on land acquisition, engineering, legal and consulting fees,” he wrote.
Craig said Newton County’s 404 application process began in 2000, and over the next 15 years, 10 project managers had been assigned to guide the county through the application process.
In late August, Johnson had sent Board of Commissioners Chair Keith Ellis a letter explaining that materials the Corps had requested in a meeting with Craig in February had not yet been received.
The Corps asked for documentation on the project’s purpose and need and an analysis to determine the least environmentally damaging practicable alternatives. The Corps also requested an explanation of discrepancies between the county’s justification for the reservoir, based on projected population growth, and the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority’s contention that there was no urgency for building the reservoir, and funds could be better used to upgrade and repair existing water treatment facilities.
Projected population figures being used to calculate future water needs in the county vary greatly.
Craig told the Corps that by law, the Commissioners, not the Water and Sewer Authority, was responsible for determining the county’s future water supply needs and developing adequate supplies.
The lawyer also denied requesting special leniency from the Corps in reviewing the application at the meeting on Aug. 25, but asked Newton County be given the same courtesy given to the City of Jefferson when its reservoir was permitted in August 2014.
Both permits were filed around the same time through Craig’s office. The City of Jefferson received a conditional permit, allowing it to gather baseline data required to prepare mitigation design drawings and plans, as well as engineering designs of the dam and reservoir.
Craig told The News on Saturday that is what he was requesting for Newton County to do both jobs parallel to each other and save money. (See Corps of Engineers at standstill on reservoir permit)