Bear Creek moving forward

COVINGTON -- County commissioners took several important steps forward on the Bear Creek Reservoir at their Nov. 20 meeting.

First, commissioners agreed to accept a $21 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. Commissioners also approved the design of the dam for $1.9 million by Schnabel Engineering. The design was approved contingent on obtaining the 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the reservoir. Finally, they hired Krebs Engineering for a master water supply plan.

County Attorney Tommy Craig said the master water supply plan would address the question of when to move forward with water treatment facilities and when and where to build lines to connect to the existing system.

Prior to the vote, Craig defended the need to move forward with Bear Creek Reservoir to commissioners at a work session on Nov. 19. Craig said that while Cornish Creek Reservoir is permitted at 36 million gallons per day, actual yield is 20 or 21 mgd. Currently, on average, 12 mgd is being treated, and on peak days, that rises to 18 mgd, he said. Baxter International will require 1 million gallons per day, so on peak days, yield will be close to the maximum, he said. That doesn't take into account any droughts that might occur. Last year, Cornish Creek Reservoir dropped 12 feet before rains, he said.

Future water demand estimates made about a decade ago were based on a population estimate of almost 400,000 in 50 years.

Craig said the problem with demand estimates is that they consider only population projections and there's no "uncertainty analysis" built in to account for factors like drought or economic development. As a reservoir consultant who has permitted about 85 percent of reservoirs in North Georgia, Craig said he is recommending to regulatory agencies that such an analysis be included in the future.

When industries like Baxter show up, "We don't have any provisions for it," he said. "We've got a lot of economic development ahead of us, I believe, based on success we've had in recent times."

He also said Cornish Creek Reservoir was built taking into consideration the capacity needed to survive the drought on record at that time, the one from 1986 to 1988, and more severe droughts have occurred since then. Water demand models do not take into account these factors, he said.

The 1,242-acre reservoir will yield 28 million gallons per day with supplemental pumping from the Alcovy River. Without pumping, the reservoir will yield 9 million gallons a day.

Craig said the county should move forward with the design and construction of the dam, and install pumps, pipes and the water treatment facility when demand dictates. The entire process could take up to 10 years, although it could be less, he said.

"What we've got to do from this point in time in my estimation is build the reservoir, build the dam and be ready to go by the time indicated. My fear is it may well be indicated by the time we get this project online," Craig said.

The GEFA loan carries zero interest for the first three years of construction, 1 percent for the remainder of construction, accrued and capitalized, and 1.82 percent during the repayment period once construction is complete. The county will make interest-only payments the first seven years of the 40-year loan and will pay principal and interest afterward and will not be charged a closing fee.

Craig said that's a present value of $12 million the county is getting to build the reservoir.

"It's foolish of this community not to accept the generous offer we've gotten under the governor's water supply program," he said.

The total cost of Bear Creek Reservoir is $62,685,831, according to a press release issued by GEFA.

There will be two additional rounds of funding through GEFA, and Craig said he doesn't know if Bear Creek will receive additional funding. Commissioner Nancy Schulz asked if the reservoir could be included on the next SPLOST. Craig said it could, and noted that Cornish Creek Reservoir was entirely funded through SPLOST. The final cost for the reservoir that came online in 1992 was $22 million with the treatment facility, "so we should have built two back then. It's going to cost three times that much to duplicate that supply," Craig said.

Schulz asked what impact debt service payments beginning in year eight of the loan of more than $880,000 a year could have to water customers. County Manager John Middleton said that as debt on the Cornish Creek Reservoir declines, the debt for Bear Creek will begin to accelerate.

While Middleton said he wouldn't guarantee that there won't be a rate hike eight years from now, he anticipates it would be offset by the declining debt on Cornish Creek. A rate hike "would not solely be the result of just the debt service itself" he said, adding that operational costs and other factors contribute factor in to rates.


dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

I just want to go on record that i think this 2nd resorvoir is a total waste of taxpayer money. One reservoir for a county is sufficient if it is planned right and maximized. They never tell you or plan for the day to day cost of operating something like this. Craig will be out of the picture after this is built and could care less about the cost of running two reservoirs. He say's $62 million to build this, but remember none of his reservoirs come in at budget. I'm betting it will be more like $100 million


henrystamm 2 years, 2 months ago

It is amazing the foolishness and ignorance of our elected officials. Looks like Craig is the only one that will benefit from this debacle, and we the tax payers are going to pay for this waste! But like I always say you get what you vote for!


deathtotaxes 2 years, 2 months ago

What qualifies Tommy Craig as a spokes person/expert on water reservoirs? Is Craig a PE or civil enginer? Who is paying for his advise and why?


jwm1955 2 years, 2 months ago

To Dennistay53,henrystamm, I persume you two were not around when the City of Covington first built city pond, at first that place was providing water to the citizens of the City of Covington and Oxford, then the county started getting water from the City of Covington, I can remember the city pond so low that there was hardly any water pressure, then they built Varner Lake to help take up the slack. Water is very important to our bodies. So I ask you two if we did not have water how would you two live? I had rather have to much water than not have any at all. Beer,Liqour,and drugs kill a person but water helps us to live.


dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

@jmw1955- I've been in Newton County since 1976. I would get my water from the same place i have been getting it since 1975, from drilled wells. I have 3 on 3 different properties in Newton County. None have ever run dry. I have property in 3 other counties in Ga. None of these counties have resorvoirs. Never have a problem in not getting water for these properties. Newton County and Tommy Craig builds resorvoirs and sales water. Government has a very poor track record when it comes to running a business. Everytime a resorvoir is built wild life habitats are destroyed. Craig cares nothing about wild life habitats while he's walking away with many, many thousands of your tax dollars.


John 2 years, 2 months ago

dennis, I know people whose well did go dry two years ago and they came to our house to shower & there where a lot more that it happened to. About 24 years ago when I live in Houston, Texas area, it got so cold that the majority of people had their water pipes freeze up. Due to a lot a ground shift in Texas water pipes are routed overhead in the attic. This happened at our house on a Christmas Eve. I shut off our water at the main line and went to Grandma's house for Christmas. Came back home and you couldn't get a plumber out for at least 3 weeks - we bought water at the store for drinking & cooking but the commode flushing our biggest issue. It is real hard to live without water for a lot of reasons especially when you have a two year old at that time.


jwm1955 2 years, 1 month ago

@Dennistay53, For 57 years I have lived in Newton County like I said I can remember when city pond looked like a mud hole it fed by a undergound stream. The city and county put strict water restrictions on everybody.I'm so glad that you had the funds to have you 3 drilled wells, there are some folks that do not have funds for a drilled well that $3,500 up to $5,000 to have done. So it was cheaper to pay $1,400 tap fee to tir into county water. I do know this sooner or later a well can go dry and then you will be crying the blues, and I bet you will pay whatever the tap fee is to pay to tie into county water. Ha Ha!


dennistay53 2 years, 1 month ago

You maybe right jwm1955. Anything can happen. But until then i will have no part of Craig's financial raping of the taxpayers of Newton County.


LoFlyer 2 years, 2 months ago

I can understand the need for another reservoir, running out of water in a drought is no laughing matter as we saw several years back. I have a general background in county infra-structure and about the first thing I found out about a water and sewer system is it primarily works on gravity. You place your reservoir and raw water treatment plant at the highest place you can find, preferably without pumping your water long distances or uphill because they increase your operating costs. Conversely the waste sewage treatment plant should be located at the lowest point available to an appropriately sized stream. Newton county is still largely rural with a lot of available space and options available for the location of a additional reservoir. Why is the proposed location the only place the county can build a reservoir? What other options are available for a water reservoir? I am not a civil engineer, but this location and plan looks inefficient from an engineering standpoint. As I said before an efficient water system works with gravity, not against it.


Newtownqq 2 years, 2 months ago

This dam is a total sham!! All the population projections Craig uses come from data collected 2003-2006, the estimated a poplulation increase to hit almost 400,000, afraid thats not gonna happen. Craig also said they don't have to go back and look at the outdated population data. I agree witht the post that it will cost more like $100 million. We have no way to total fund the project, so we are just gonna make it a SPLOST EVENT ONCE AGAIN! I wonder why Mort does not object to not biding out the dam design as he did with the road mess? To me it seems that Craig is on the payroll for this Schnable who is doing the dam design for $2million. But I was so reassured because Craig trusts these folks! Kinda sounds like Deal and his lotto appointment.


dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

@John- I'm not saying that water is not important. I'm saying that there are other and cheaper and enviromental friendly ways of getting water than another probably $100 million surface water reservoir. Everytime you build a reservoir, you take flood plains and then make bigger and larger flood plains else where. I don't care how many holes you dig, there will be only so much rain falling out of the sky. Whether you have reservoirs or wells you will still have drought problems. I'm just looking at the growth coming into Newton County in the past few years. It's not the type of growth that will help us pay the tremendous debt we are getting thrown at us by our overspending government. The growth we have been getting on the west side is growth that is adding to our tax burden, not taking away. It's doesn't matter what i or anybody else say's, the 2nd reservoir will be built. Then Craig will be putting out a plan for a 3rd reservoir. There is a reason why the Jasper County Board of Commissioners want nothing to do with Tommy Craig and Bear Creek.


dennistay53 2 years, 2 months ago

If Bear Creek is so important to the commissioners and SPLOST can be used to pay for it, then why was the last two SPLOST not directed for it? We have known that Bear Creek was in the works for well over a decade (Last two SPLOST) yet these SPLOST were directed to a civic center that has yet to be built, parks, a second library that we can't afford to staff, a Agriculture Center, additional judge offices and additions to court house, renovation of old jail among other things.. While this has gone on, the county has had to layoff employees, let road repairs go lacking, under fund safety departments. If this 2nd Reservoir is so important then pray tell why it wasn't on the list for the past 2 SPLOSTS?Just appears the commissioners and their attorney are saying one thing but doing another. Why? Because they believe the taxpayers will just keep giving them the money. This way they don't have to plan ahead.


Tairuna 2 years, 1 month ago

So peeps central office buzz today on the downlow is Matthews will announce this week he leaves at end of year.


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