New plan for dam would save county $2.5 million

COVINGTON—An engineering firm’s proposal approved by the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday will save the county an estimated $2.5 million in costs related to construction of the Bear Creek Reservoir Dam.

Several years ago a consulting firm presented the county with a design for the dam, but the proposal raised questions about costs such as rerouting Henderson Mill Road to cross over the dam or building a bridge over the reservoir.

At Tuesday’s BOC meeting, Joseph Monroe of Schnabel Engineering presented a slide show, recommending that the county shift the proposed location of the dam upstream 600 feet.

Monroe explained that a dam at this location across Bear Creek would avoid moving Henderson Mill Road and result in more efficiency, improved safety and security, reduced erosion and less impact on utilities associated with nearby roads.

“The eventual total cost savings would be $2.5 million,” Monroe said, comparing Schnabel’s plan to the previous one. He estimated savings in the environmental impact would be $1.3 million, and $1.2 million for other savings such as not needing to close Henderson Mill Road during construction and either permanently rerouting it over the dam or building a new bridge.

The size of the reservoir will be roughly 1,245 acres.

According to Monroe, some cost savings will come from the design of the reservoir’s spillway. Schnabel’s proposed spillway, he said, will be more hydraulically efficient than the one in the original plan.

“In this plan the water has a more direct path to discharge from the reservoir,” he said.

Security and safety are issues surrounding dam projects, and Monroe said the Schnabel plan will be better in that regard.

“Any time you can limit public access to a dam, you’re better off,” he said.

County attorney Tommy Craig told the commissioners, “I want the general public to understand there would be no change in the normal pool level,” referring to the water level resulting from the new plan compared with the original one.

Craig stressed that the new dam location will not change the water line and buffers adjacent to private property along the shoreline of the future reservoir.

He also said that board members of Gaithers United Methodist Church “are enthusiastic” about the new plan because the original one placed the dam very close to the church and “the church would have been looking up” at about 45 feet of dirt dam.

The BOC voted unanimously to approve the plan submitted by Schnabel, a Virginia firm with a location in Alpharetta.

The next steps include approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its notice to all property owners adjacent to the proposed dam and reservoir. Meanwhile, the county must complete paperwork such as filing an Environmental Impact Report.