Over the objections of Jackson County and the City of Jefferson, the regional water authority will ask the state for more time to “comment” on a proposal to allow Jefferson to withdraw water from the North Oconee River.
Board of commissioners’ chair Pat Bell and Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority manager Eric Klerk cast the only dissenting votes as the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority voted to petition the Environmental Protection Division for a 30-day extension of the comment period, which would have ended Monday, Sept. 8.
The squabble comes against a backdrop of a challenge from Jackson County that because the yield of the regional reservoir is vastly overstated, Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties are using Jackson’s water without paying for it.
Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison and deputy manager Bobby Snipes couched their concerns over the proposed permit in terms of its alleged effect on the four-county region, principally the Bear Creek Reservoir.
That 505-acre impoundment receives water pumped from the Middle Oconee River. Athens-Clark draws water from the North and Middle Oconee rivers. Those permits, said Snipes, are linked to the Bear Creek Reservoir in that Athens-Clarke is not allowed to withdraw from the reservoir as long as it can meet its needs via the rivers. If Jefferson takes 4-5.6 mgd from the river, the concern is that Athens-Clarke would have to dip into the reservoir sooner in times of reduced stream flows.
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