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Atlanta’s (nominated) watershed commissioner helps celebrate progress at Bellwood Quarry

Bellwood Quarry, reservoir Questions abound over whether the former quarry cavity should be opened to recreational use. File/Credit: youtube.com

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the month in which a city official’s employment was terminated.

By David Pendered

Kishia L. Powell doesn’t officially have the job as Atlanta’s watershed commissioner, but she’s hit the ground running and on Wednesday is to join Mayor Kasim Reed in celebrating a milestone in developing a reservoir at the old Bellwood Quarry.

The event is to mark the arrival of the first piece of the tunnel-boring machine. The machine is to bore a tunnel 5 miles to the Chattahoochee River, which will supply water to the reservoir.

On Tuesday, Powell was formally introduced to the Atlanta City Council’s Utilities Committee as as Reed’s nominee for the position of commissioner of the Department of Watershed.

Powell is to succeed Jo Ann Macrina, whom Reed said he fired May 17 from her job as watershed commissioner. It was Powell’s second appearance before the committee. The first was on June 14.

Powell was greeted warmly Tuesday by councilmembers Andre Dickens and Joyce Sheperd. They said they appreciated her taking questions at the previous meeting.

On June 14, Powell responded to questions from the committee. In one exchange, she concurred with Sheperd’s remarks that the watershed department could do more to inform lower income residents of a free water conservation program that could help them reduce their water bills.

Bellwood Quarry, reservoir

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed plans to take Kisha L. Powell, whom he has nominated as watershed commissioner, to an event at the old Bellwood Quarry. Credit: youtube.com

Powell served most recently as public works director for the city of Jackson, Miss., according to her resume. Reed’s letter to the council nominating her for the Atlanta position includes a paragraph that states:

  • “Kishia Powell, a registered professional civil engineer, has leveraged 17 years of experience to successfully serve municipal clients across the United States and London, England. Ms. Powell recently served as the Director of Public Works for the City of Jackson, MS and has demonstrated leadership and vision with tough issues relating to revenue recovery for the water and sewer enterprise in addition to providing oversight for the city’s Wastewater Consent Decree and MS4 Programs, oversight of a $90 million performance te [sic] problem-solving and collaboration.”

MS4 programs are separate sewer systems for stormwater and sewage. Atlanta is installing MS4 programs as part of its compliance with the federal consent decree that forced the city to stop polluting waterways.

At the Bellwood Quarry on Wednesday, Powell will have the opportunity to commemorate a moment in the development of the city’s water supply for the next 100 years.

Greensferry sewer tunnel

The Greensferry Sewer Separation project was built as part of Atlanta’s effort to eliminate combined sewer overflows in the city. File/Credit: lachel.com

According to a statement from Reed’s office:

  • “A truck will arrive with a 54,000-pound, 30-foot main beam that will make up just one part of the 400-foot-long tunnel boring machine. Altogether, more than 70 trucks will bring the tunnel boring machine components to be assembled on the quarry floor.
  • “In September, the tunnel boring machine will start its five-mile journey to the Chattahoochee River, linking the river, the Hemphill and Chattahoochee Water Treatment Plants to a new 2.4 billion gallon water storage facility at the quarry.
  • “In March 2016, the City of Atlanta began blasting two 400-foot shafts for future pump stations at the quarry, the first step building the future 30-day water supply. The new water storage facility will provide more than 1.2 million Atlanta residents and visitors with a safe and reliable water supply during an emergency for the next century.”

The quarry gets a lot of attention as a potential recreational lake in a big park along the Atlanta BeltLine. Whether or not it gets developed for recreational use is an issue that’s not yet ripe.

What is certain is the reservoir will supplement the city’s water storage systems. One advantage of the planned reservoir is that evaportation will be limited by the relatively small size of the water surface. The storage capacity comes mainly from the depth of the hole that was quarried over decades.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin announced Dec. 10, 2005 that they city had purchased the quarry lease and the land from Fulton County for $34.2 million. Fulton had been leasing the quarry to Vulcan Materials.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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