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County to pursue funding for reservoir on Etowah
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Forsyth County News

Water worries are prompting some to seek out creative solutions.

Forsyth County officials are considering the possibility of drawing from a water source other than the Chattahoochee River as Lake Lanier's levels have dropped more than 15 feet below full pool.

Water and Sewer Director Tim Perkins went before the county commission Tuesday afternoon to ask for permission to apply for a $3.5 million grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

If approved for the grant, funds could be put toward a $14 million project to build a reservoir that could draw water from the Etowah River in northwestern Forsyth. The reservoir would be about 180 acres and serve as a major water source.

The state agency has $40 million in grant funding to aid local governments and water and sewer authorities in developing water supply projects.

Perkins said the county is evaluating a site for the potential project and the application process likely will be tough.

"It will be a highly competitive grant," he said.

Perhaps heightening the challenge, the Etowah has become an increasingly popular choice for reservoirs.

The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and city of Canton are building one on the Etowah in nearby Cherokee County. And to Forsyth's north, Dawson County is moving forward with plans to build a reservoir, also tapping the Etowah.

Commissioners Charles Laughinghouse and David Richard were in agreement on at least filing an application.

"It can't hurt to try," Richard said. "They can only tell us no."

Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas said if the county secured the grant, the remaining funds for the project could come from the capital fund or by issuing bonds.

"There could be sufficient funding," Thomas said.

Commissioner Linda Ledbetter cast the lone vote of opposition on the matter, saying she didn't see where the county would get the other $10.5 million.

The deadline for the water and sewer department to submit the grant application is Aug. 29. Perkins, Deputy Director Barry Lucas and Grant Administrator Nancy Smallwood have worked together on the project. Grant awards will be announced in December.

According to its Web site, the environmental facilities authority is a state agency that administers a variety of programs that provide financial assistance and other support services to improve Georgia's environment.

Among the agency's focus areas are water, wastewater, solid waste, recycling, land conservation and energy efficiency.