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County presses Etowah hopes
Legislator cautions reservoir plan could land in court
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Forsyth County News
County commissioners met with all five members of Forsyth’s state legislative delegation to discuss ideas for alternative water sources in the ongoing drought.

Forsyth County Water and Sewer Director Tim Perkins gave a presentation Friday which included current statistics about how the county’s water system works.

“We can’t depend on Lanier as a guaranteed water source as we once could,” Perkins told state leaders. “Lake Lanier is changing.”

Perkins also addressed potential plans to build a reservoir that would draw water from the Etowah River, which dips from Dawson County into a corner of extreme northwestern Forsyth.

Perkins said there has long been a push to use the Etowah to supply water for the population in the Coosa/Etowah basin, which includes about 30 percent of the county’s residents.

District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy cautioned that a reservoir plan would likely result in legal battles.

“If we start a reservoir tomorrow,” he said, “I guarantee there will be a lawsuit filed tomorrow to stop it. That’s something to be aware of.”

The Etowah River has become an increasingly popular choice for reservoirs.

The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and city of Canton are working on building one on the Etowah in nearby Cherokee County.

Dawson County also is moving forward with plans to build a reservoir on the Etowah.

During the meeting, County Manager Rhonda O’Connor urged all five state delegates to write letters supporting Forsyth’s efforts to obtain the grant.

District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox encouraged commissioners to seek out other ways to get water.

“We’ve got a good deal of stormwater runoff in this county,” Knox said. “I think we need to start looking at how to capture some of that.”

Grant money for an Etowah reservoir project could be available from the state, although Perkins expressed doubt over the competitive nature of the application process.

On July 22, commissioners voted to apply for a $3.5 million grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Funds could be put toward the reservoir project, estimated to cost about $14 million and cover about 180 acres.

Statewide, $40 million is available to aid in the construction of water supply projects, reservoirs and innovative water conservation projects.

However, Perkins said the application process is “slanted more toward projects ... that are already two or three years into the process” of procuring a reservoir and permit for the reservoir.

“These other projects already knew where their funding was going to come from,” Perkins said.

Perkins added that he hopes the state will soon be able to fund reservoir projects in earlier stages, “not after you’ve already got your permit. That’s sort of upside down, in my opinion.”

Murphy agreed with Perkins that securing a portion of the $40 million in grant money could be difficult.

“You’re going to have 159 counties trying to get some of this money,” Murphy said. “It’s not going to go a long way.”