County to be paid for Oconee water use
Jackson County may finally begin receiving payment when Oconee County uses more Bear Creek water than it owns.
Addressing a long-standing Jackson County complaint at least partially the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority approved a new cost allocation formula by which members will be reimbursed when one county dips into the water or treatment capacity of the other counties.
Which is exactly what Oconee County has been doing for months, according to Jackson County officials.
Oconee County owns 20.7 percent of the 21-million-gallons-per-day (mgd) treatment plant at the reservoir, but it has frequently used more than its ownership share of 4 mgd. Jackson County officials have long argued that Oconee is using Jackson County treatment capacity without (a) permission and (b) paying for it.
Under the proposal approved last Wednesday, a county that goes over its share would pay $1.60 per 1,000 gallons to the authority, which would credit that amount toward the county or counties who own the remaining production capacity.
That cost is just for treatment of the water. Jackson, Barrow and Oconee counties all, own much more water than they have capacity to treat at present.
The action also requires that the offending county, should its usage result in a fine by the EPD, also be responsible for paying the fine. The change became effective April 1.
Jackson County officials would like to have the meters for the various counties read daily so officials could keep a closer watch for such encroachments, but basin authority officials say they cannot read the meters daily.
It is conceivable that a county could use more than its allocated share several times a month, but never pay a penalty if its monthly average was not above its share.
“What this says to me is whoever gets to the water first gets it,” complained Pat Bell, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
UGA To Conduct Reservoir Studies
The authority also voted to let the University of Georgia School of Forestry and Wildlife Management conduct an ongoing “lake aging study” on the reservoir. Students will periodically access the reservoir sediment levels, water quality and ecology at no cost to the authority.
In a cost-cutting move, the authority voted to suspend for until Dec. 31 the monthly contributions from member counties into a capital renewal and replacement fund.
The move will save Jackson County $9,074 per month.
“Your reserves may be where they need to be already,” said auditor Chris Edwards, who said the authority’s cash flow has proven sufficient to handle repairs and replacement to date.
To Jackson Co.
Jackson County will get more than $107,000 back from the authority following the annual balancing of the authority’s checkbook.
Members are assessed based on a budget plus usage, and an annual “settling up” occurs when the books are reconciled. Barrow and Oconee counties will also get rebates.