Final hurdle cleared for dam approval

Posted: Walton Tribune, Sunday, March 6, 2011 12:00 am

By Robbie Schwartz WaltonTribune.com

Permit for reservoir expected within 30 days, officials said

MONROE — County officials indicated last week they expect to have final approval for the dam site for the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir in the coming weeks.

At the center in the delay in permitting was the amount of water that will be retained or absorbed by the soil and how much water will run off for a given storm event. Project officials utilized state standards but the Georgia Environmental Protection Division recommended its own set of standards for such measurements respective to the dam’s classification.

On Feb. 28, project officials met with Dallon Woosley, program manager for the EPD’s Safe Dams Program, to discuss the status of the project. Officials talked about comments from the state on the project proposals submitted Nov. 20, 2009, and July 9, 2010, noting most had been addressed from the first proposal. The discrepancy in the measuring of moisture was one of the last remaining issues from the 2010 proposal.

“Based on this meeting, the Georgia Safe Dams Program has agreed that the use of (Antecedent Moisture Condition II) would be appropriate if the emergency spillway elevation is lowered approximately 3 feet,” said Jimmy Parker, vice president of Precision Planning, who are serving as the project managers for the reservoir. “It was agreed that the design revisions would be completed and plans would be re-submitted to the state by Friday. Georgia Safe Dams has now committed to issuing the permit for construction of the Hard Labor Creek dam within 60 days. The revised emergency spillway elevation does not affect the top of the dam elevation, water pool or reservoir storage capacity.

“In a nutshell, all issues related to the design and approval of the reservoir dam have now been resolved and we anticipate issuance of the permit for dam construction in April.”

The proposed earthen dam will be approximately 1,670 feet long and 98 feet high. The width at the top of the dam is 30 feet, with a base width of 570 feet. The normal pool level will be 700 feet mean sea level, providing 50,000 acre feet of water storage.

The preliminary work for the dam has been ongoing since 2008, when the project contracted with Schnabel Engineering for dam design services, whose bid came in $280,000 under the proposed budget. Following detailed geotechnical analyses, hydraulic and hydrology studies, initial dam design drawings were submitted to the EPD Safe Dams Program in May 2009. Review comments were received from Safe Dams in November 2009, and drawings were revised and resubmitted to address those comments in January 2010. Secondary plan review comments were received from Safe Dams in July 2010, and all items were addressed and resubmitted with the exception of the AMC issue.

“Based on the recent meeting on Monday, Feb. 28, all design issues have now been resolved and the Reservoir Management Board anticipates issuance of the permit for dam construction in April 2011,” Parker said.

To date, approximately $653,000 of the budgeted $1.44 million has been expended on dam design services. Should Gov. Nathan Deal make funding available to the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir, county officials have indicated one of the leading possible uses for this money would be for building the dam.

The Hard Labor Creek Reservoir is a project funded by both Walton and Oconee counties. Completely built out, the 12 billion gallon Hard Labor Creek Reservoir will have a capacity of producing 62 million gallons per day of drinking water and will encompass 1,416 acres. The regional water supply is a joint venture of Oconee and Walton counties and has its own management board. Both counties have bonded out about half of the approved $150 million in first-phase funding, the bulk of which has been spent on land acquisition.