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Engineers to assess impact of reservoir

COVINGTON - The Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a joint public notice to assess the potential impact of Bear Creek Reservoir.

The notice signifies that the county's application for the reservoir is complete.

The Corps determines whether to issue a permit based on its evaluation of impact on the public interest, soliciting comments from public, federal, state and local agencies and officials and other interested parties to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general

environmental effects and other public factors.

County Attorney Tommy Craig told county commissioners recently that Corps representatives are expected to visit the site in February, and a public information meeting will likely take place in March.

Meanwhile, a copy of the public notice has been mailed to several thousand people with potential interest in the project, Craig said.

Once public comment closes, all issues raised must be cataloged and further researched by the Corps, Craig said.

The 1,242 acre pump-storage reservoir is intended to serve Newton County's water needs through the year 2050, pumping approximately 28 million gallons of water per day, according to the Corps.

The reservoir will be located in southeast Newton, and will overtake most of the more than 2,000 acres purchased by the county in 1996 along with Gaither Plantation, though the historic Gaither home, barn, log cabin and Harris Springs Primitive Baptist Church will remain.

The reservoir will require installation of 6,000 feet of force main pipeline to augment reservoir storage by pumping water to the Alcovy River, according to the Corps.

The dam will be 1,450 feet long, 62 feet high and 350 feet wide at the base.

Ten residences and portions of Macedonia, Gaither, Benton, Old Post and Henderson Mill roads would be impacted, with Henderson Mill Road relocated over the top of the dam.

The County Attorney's Office did not return phone calls seeking additional information.

A Corps spokesman said the public may submit comments in writing at the following address: Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Regulatory Branch, P.O. Box 889 Savannah, GA 31402.

Comments should be submitted no later than Feb. 7.

Comments should reference the Newton County Board of Commissioners as applicants and the application number - 200003600.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.