Proposed Hall County reservoir a waste of tax dollars to benefit developers, politically connected insiders

By Guest Columnist SALLY BETHEA, a former member of the Georgia Board of Natural Resources and the retired executive director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy organization

Sally Bethea

Sally Bethea

“It’s just the right way to run a railroad”.

So said Jud Turner, the director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, when interviewed recently by a reporter about the proposed Glades reservoir in Hall County.

Turner is right about the railroad part. For nearly a century, the term has been used to describe the way that power has been employed to force actions, no matter how unneeded or unpopular.

For the past two decades, local and state officials have crusaded to build a reservoir in the middle of thousands of acres of timber land owned by a wealthy Austrian family. The current version of this project would require the damming of a small tributary to the Chattahoochee River in Hall County just upstream of Lake Lanier, and the flooding of 850 acres.

In 2008, land near the proposed reservoir was rezoned for massive mixed-use developments. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Hagen Creek and Cane Creek development plans call for almost 5,000 residential units. The master plan for Glades Farm would bring the total acreage to over 7,100 and add another 6,000 homes around its centerpiece amenity lake, Glades reservoir.

Glades reservoir, edited

Flat Creek would be dammed to create Glades reservoir in Hall County, which the state is promoting. Development plans call for the proposed lake to be built at taxpayer expense and to become the centerpiece of a planned residential development. Credit: Special

Taxpayers in Hall County, who have never been given the opportunity to vote for the reservoir, have spent $16 million on consultants – lawyers, lobbyists and engineers who are working to secure the federal permits that must be issued to allow 18 miles of streams and 40 acres of wetlands to be destroyed during construction. (One of those consultants – lawyer Tommy Craig, who was paid at least $1 million by Hall County for his Glades efforts – no longer works for the county and has been fired by other local governments for overbilling and failing to deliver permits for similar reservoir projects.)

Over the years, the need for Glades reservoir – as stated by its proponents – has been elusive. It has changed from real estate amenity to regional water supply to local water supply and recently to a way to “improve downstream flow”.

EPD’s Turner explains this nebulous new reservoir purpose (flow improvement) by saying that the state is “in the middle of a significant water policy shift.” Some longtime observers wonder if this shift is merely another strategy to try and get the hobbled reservoir project over the finish line.

Current population projections and future water demands show Hall County’s future water supply needs can be met by existing sources, including Lake Lanier and Cedar Creek – an existing reservoir that has never been tapped. Aggressive water conservation measures would further enhance local water supply.

Glades reservoir map

The proposed Glades reservoir would have a significant impact on the Chattahoochee River, environmental advocates say. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In truth, Glades reservoir is a private development feature looking for a public purpose. Without that public purpose, federal permits cannot be issued and taxpayers cannot fund the infrastructure.

Inside EPD, some mid-level bureaucrats call it, “the Governor’s lake,” and with good reason. It’s no secret that Gov. Nathan Deal and some of his closest allies have used their significant clout and influence to gain top-level support for “the next Peachtree City”, as an enthusiastic promoter once described it to a former state legislator.

The shell game aspect of Glades reservoir is also troubling.

Water that would normally flow downriver into Lake Lanier – the primary water supply source for metro Atlanta – would instead be pumped out of the Chattahoochee and transported by a 4.5-mile long pipeline to the new reservoir where it would be stored until needed for release downstream to Lanier.

Glades reservoir would not magically “create” new supply. It’s all the same water in the river system and, notably, more water would be lost to downstream users because of increased evaporation from the surface of the new lake.

Also troubling are the potential negative impacts from this pump-storage scheme on river ecology and recreational use in the Upper Chattahoochee River Water Trail.

Of further concern: The new dam would be constructed within Lake Lanier’s flood zone, potentially interfering with the ability of the Corps of Engineers to manage Lanier during floods. During dry periods, Glades reservoir would reduce river flow into Lanier, thereby reducing the releases from Buford Dam that send water downstream past metro Atlanta communities.

Dams are last-century water supply solutions that are not cost-effective or sustainable, especially with the changing climate of the 21st century. Georgians must not be railroaded into paying hundreds of millions of dollars to build this boondoggle lake for private developers and politically connected insiders.

 

5 replies
  1. writes_of_weigh says:

    ‘Tis akin to former Gov. Perdue’s Go Fish Georgia in Perry……a $20+ million  taxpayor financed boondoggle. Might I suggest Go Fis* Yourself South and soon to be (…..NOT) Go Fis* Yourself North! Why doesn’t the Guvnah just go jump in the lake…..and cool off a bit. Austrian landowners indeed. What about Georgia’s TAXED Enough Already?Report

    Reply
  2. bcngator63 says:

    Given the current water wars with Fla. and Ala., increased storage capacity is absolutely essential.  The current drought in California reinforces this position.  On the other hand, the current concern about air quality, greenhouse effect, global warming, etc. points out the need to stop destroying our forests.  The trees lost and the paving added for 11,000 new houses is definitely not desirable.Report

    Reply
  3. nforrest says:

    In the future we should elect governors from extreme S Georgia – they invariably destroy the environment where they are from. Here’s another one of Deal’s environmental disasters for the benefit of his cronies at CSX Railroad. No other inland port in the country is located this far from an Interstate Hwy. It was placed here to mitigate CSX’s lost revenue on a rail line dedicated to hauling high sulphur coal out of Ky. and W.V. It is within spitting distance of the largest Mountain Wilderness E of the Mississippi, and on the bank of a stream with an endangered species, found nowhere else. They are screwing up one of the most pristine mountain areas in the Eastern U.S. and have the gumption to call it a benefit to the environment. http://www.gaports.com/IntermodalRail/AppalachianRegionalPort.aspxReport

    Reply
  4. writes_of_weigh says:

    nforrest Bedford? IMHO….Not only might the referenced site be poorly chosen, but from a rail modal operations standpoint, and Atlanta region air quality perspective,  the notion that even one set of trains linking (the port in)Savannah to this proposed Murray county facility via the clusterfeck(and rail equivalent of spaghetti jct.) known as Howell (Jct.)interlocking, where some freight trains have been known to be delayed for their “turn to cross” transecting rail lines, hours on end, and through which said trains will have to weave their way to and fro, will be a more compelling reason to stop construction of said “inland port”, and consider locating such a facility near, say….Cedartown/Rockmart. THAT might involve re-railing part of the Silver Comet trail, but that was always an eventuality, given CSX/Seabord System’s poor decision process to abandon their shortest/straightest/lowest gradient mainline linking Atlanta and Birmingham, a few decades ago. As the failure of the State’s elected officials to effectively and openly negotiate with CSX regarding their lease of the valuable, Georgia owned, Western and Atlantic r-o-w linking Atlanta to downtown Chattanooga, and extract passenger/commuter operating rights on other CSX routes in Georgia(i.e. Atlanta-Augusta, Atlanta-Athens, Atlanta-Manchester) I can only concur that it’s another cronified(?) sweetheart DEAL. The trouble in all of this is compounded by a potential new “wave” of rail mergers, wherein, it might shortly occur that Norfolk Southern and it’s dwindling Atlanta area workforce(and marginalized political influence) may be further decimated by a potential proxy battle between Canadians attempting to wrest U.S. control and ceed it to a few office suites in CP Rwy. headquartered Calgary. Failure of the “surf board” to protect U.S. controlled transportation assets in such an eventuality, could lead to Georgia rail-centric congestion/pollution decisions/fates being decided further away, potentially, in places like Omaha, Fort Worth, or Kansas City.Report

    Reply
  5. ThoM ThoM says:

    ThoM

    This is what you expect from Hall County and the real estate community. Eighteen years ago a development was built adjoining my property. Rochester Engineering steam rolled the concerns and railroaded my property. The commissioners agreed with big smiles. RA since this has destroyed many streams and properties. According to Georgia Engineering Board as long as no one is killed, RA can do as they please. The Environmental Propaganda Division recently came out but they could not locate the stream or damages. EPD response was for the damages to be repaired by property owners victimized by these pay offs. December 1, I will still be required to make my annual contribution to the enrichment of this circus!

    TReport

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?