Council hopes to hold onto reservoir
by Erin Dentmon
edentmon@cherokeetribune.com
January 11, 2013 12:22 AM | 1826 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Canton officials indicated they have no interest in selling the city’s shares of the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir when members of the Canton City Council and the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority met Wednesday.

Canton City Council Member John Beresford said he wants to maintain the partnership with CCMWA.

Beresford said maintaining the city’s shares of the reservoir is important despite the city’s financial woes.

“Through this last three years we were drowning in debt. We still are, but we have some flotation devices. This is important for our future,” he said.

The city of Canton owns 25 percent of the 414-acre reservoir located in north Canton, with CCMWA owning 75 percent.

“I think what we have with the 50-50 (decision making) and the 25-75 (ownership) is an excellent program,” Beresford said.

Canton previously attempted to unload its share of the reservoir but was met with opposition from the Cobb Water Authority.

Canton City Council Member Bob Rush said at Wednesday’s meeting he wants to move forward with the partnership and reservoir ownership.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said the city is in a better financial place now than it was at the time the city was exploring selling its share of the reservoir.

“We’re going to stay Cobb’s partner. We’re going to need (the reservoir) eventually. We need to keep all our water. As long as we can pay, we’ll be your (CCMWA’s) partners,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Nearly 13 years and $100 million after the reservoir was first approved, almost all construction at the reservoir is complete.

“Everything has been accomplished except SCADA (a monitoring system) and the management office,” CCMWA General Manager Glenn Page said.

Canton and the CCMWA approved a $934,000 contract for a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition system in the fall.

The management office has been put out for bid.

The reservoir met its final deadline for its 404 Permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 31.

Page said reservoir staff “worked very hard over the last six months” to complete mitigation activities required by the Corps.

“The only outstanding items we had left to meet the terms were to be able to document to the Corps that we had done everything they require in terms of the mitigation, which mostly involved buying easements and putting covenants and restrictions on property titles,” Page said.

The reservoir has also recently been granted a variance when it comes to how much a water release can affect water temperatures in the Etowah River.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service originally wanted releases from the reservoir to only affect temperatures by 2 degrees at the point of discharge, but the variance allows a temperature change of up to 4 degrees at a sampling point about a mile downstream from the reservoir.

Meeting the 2-degree requirements would have required building an expensive system for water withdrawals.

“That could have been a $1.5 million project that we will not have to build,” Page said.

Canton is now able to withdraw water if needed, Page said.

“In all respects, the project is operational,” he said.

Several board members of CCMWA agreed that the water authority has had a good partnership with the city.

“For me, we’ve had a great partnership with Canton. It’s been a long road,” CCWMA board chairman and Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said. “Nobody was prepared for the drought. Canton was. Marietta was.”

CCWMA board member Don Mabry agreed that it was wise for Canton to maintain its shares of the reservoir.

“I know Canton would have liked to sell, but that would be very naive, nearsighted. The economy is down now, but it will come back. You will need water,” he said during the joint meeting.

The group also discussed whether additional future employees would be employed by Canton or the water authority.

David Hatabian, an engineer hired by the city as reservoir manager, has since moved to the city’s engineering department.

As reservoir manager, his position was funded 25 percent by Canton and 75 percent by CCMWA.

Heath Lee, the reservoir’s operator, was hired as a CCMWA employee and is now the only staff member at the reservoir. His salary is paid 75 percent by CCMWA and 25 percent by the city of Canton.

Canton City Manager Scott Wood said the council and water authority board would need to decide if they would be comfortable with a subordinate employee also falling under CCMWA.

Beresford said he had no problems with reservoir employees being hired by CCMWA.

“During the construction phase, we did have closer ties. The construction is done, basically, and I think we should turn over to Cobb the reservoir manager. That’s your business. You understand it,” he said.

The council and water authority discussed the oversight of day-to-day operations now that the reservoir’s construction phase is winding down.

“Some of our frustrations have been because we have such different operating paradigms and processes. Canton is slower. We’ve felt we’ve not been able to execute our jobs,” Page said, saying that leaders may want to look into changing some of the decision-making processes while maintaining a 50-50 split.

The reservoir is managed by a board of managers consisting of Page and Wood, who must ask their respective agencies to approve certain decisions, such as budgets and acceptance of project bids.

“We’re talking about two different entities — an authority and a city,” Hobgood responded. “I’m not sure Canton can give up its decision-making capacity.”

Mabry suggested that the reservoir might not need an advisory board.

“We could just agree to have the management under the water authority. That would not impact your (Canton’s) use of water at all,” he said.

Mabry later voiced concerns about supervision of reservoir employees, saying they needed a “chain of command” rather than reporting to the board of managers.

CCMWA board member Charlie Crowder said the water authority might want to explore taking over management of the reservoir and taking on Canton as a customer in the future.

“I’m just thinking out loud,” he said.

Lee, the reservoir operator, gave the group a presentation about the daily operating needs of the reservoir. The annual operations budget is $750,000.

“Everyday operation needs two people for safety’s sake,” said Lee, the only staff member working at the reservoir. “It can be a little treacherous sometimes.”

Maintenance tasks include cleaning pipes and drains, maintaining the 1.25 mile pipeline used for filling the reservoir and releasing water, exercising emergency release valves and reading gauges and monitors.

Lee reads monitors at the reservoir’s pump station daily and regularly sends various reports to the Environmental Protection Division and other agencies.

Additionally, Lee monitors five mitigation sites associated with the reservoir, some as far away as Dawson County.

Hatabian said the maintenance tasks and reports help ensure the dam’s safety and efficiency.

“That’s part of the reason SCADA is so important,” Wood added.

Lee said SCADA would not take care of any maintenance issues but will provide an extra layer of monitoring and alert staff if something is out of the ordinary.
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