Don McKee: If drought comes, Cobb to get water from Hickory Log reservoir
by Don McKee
May 16, 2012 12:09 AM | 394 views | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority is ahead of the game in planning for ever-increasing demand and the droughts that will inevitably come.

Twelve years ago, the authority entered into an agreement with the city of Canton to build the Hickory Log Creek Dam and Reservoir in Cherokee County. The now-filled reservoir covers more than 400 acres and holds between five and six billion gallons of water for use when needed.

Under their agreement, the Cobb-Marietta authority paid 75 percent of the nearly $100 million cost and owns the right to 75 percent of the water, while Canton paid the other 25 percent and holds ownership of that amount of water from the reservoir.

The partnership has hit a snag because Canton wants to sell it share of the reservoir. However, under the contract, the Cobb authority has the right of approving or rejecting any potential buyer of Canton’s share. It seemed that Cobb might buy out Canton’s interest but a consultant last month advised the authority against that option, saying the value of the deal would depend on whether the Corps of Engineers gives approval for drawing water from Allatoona to match water pumped in from the reservoir.

On that point, General Manager Glenn Page of the Cobb authority was asked last week if there’s going to be a problem with Corps approval. How in the name of common sense could the agency not approve an equal exchange between reservoir and river?

Page told me in a telephone interview that, over the past two years, Cobb officials have met with Corps representatives in Atlanta and Washington seeking approval of the reservoir plan. It’s been a frustrating experience, all too typical of federal bureaucracies.

“We were told last March 2 (2011) that we would have an answer by the end of the month,” Page said. “Next time I need to ask what year. We went up in early November for a meeting and were told we would have an answer by Dec. 16.” There’s still no answer.

Page said the authority’s consultant said it could take 10 years to get the Corps’ decision. “This is what we’re up against,” he said. “There’s no incentive to make decisions because they get sued all the time.”

What if the day comes when water is needed from the reservoir to supply Cobb and meet the commitments of the authority?

“I have stated publicly that if we find ourselves in a drought this summer, to avoid using up the storage pool (in Lake Allatoona), we will start using Hickory Log as the state has permitted,” Page said.

What about the idea of building a pipeline from the reservoir to Cobb County, bypassing the reservoir-to-river plan?

“It’s highly unlikely,” Page said. “It does not make economic or environmental sense.” That’s what he has told the Corps of Engineers.

Kudos to Glenn Page and the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority for their foresight in planning for this county’s future water needs, drought or not.
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