Ocmulgee Sierra Club

return to
 Ocmulgee Sierra Club - Conservation Group


Water Quality Issues
www.georgiawatercouncil.org    http://www.altamahariverkeeper.org    http://www.garivers.org    http://www.environmentgeorgia.org     

Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

Report urges expanding size of 16 Georgia reservoirs

- hduncan@macon.com

The fastest way to increase Georgia’s stored water supply would be by increasing the size of 16 reservoirs, including three in Middle Georgia, according to a state report.

Four of the other reservoirs that could be rapidly expanded would have to use rivers that flow through Middle Georgia as their water source.

The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, as requested by the state Legislature, created the report to inventory Georgia’s current and proposed reservoirs and determine what changes or additions could create the most immediate impact on the water supply.

Raising dams of existing reservoirs is much cheaper and faster than building new reservoirs, although the report noted that conservation, efficiency and connections between water systems should come first.

The report identified 16 reservoirs that could be expanded by raising a dam without flooding homes or businesses. Among them are the Macon’s Water Authority’s Javors Lucas Reservoir, a small flood control reservoir on Tobesofkee Creek in Monroe County, and the Edie Creek Reservoir owned by the city of Barnesville.

Local officials responsible for each reservoir were not consulted, and in most cases they knew nothing about the report until its recent release. The report found that some of the expansion projects would require pumping water more than 10 miles from a river to the reservoir, making those feasible but more expensive, said Kevin Kelly, senior water supply program manager for the facilities authority.

The report suggests that the Tobesofkee Creek reservoir could be enlarged to hold more than 38 times its current capacity, bringing its final volume to almost 10 billion gallons. The little reservoir is sometimes called Little Lake Tobesofkee, Monroe County Commission Chairman Harold Carlisle said.

The lake, built in 1963 to control flooding, is privately owned, said Carmen Westerfield, a district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Camp Kaleo, primarily a summer camp site owned by the Georgia Baptist Convention, is located on its banks.

The old Soil Conservation Service built the lake and many others across Middle Georgia counties to control flooding. Westerfield said the Tobesofkee Creek reservoir was successful in preventing heavy flood damage during Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994. Today, Monroe County and the soil and water conservation district maintain the dam, she said.

If the lake were expanded as much as the facilities authority report suggests is feasible, it would also use the Ocmulgee River as a secondary water source. However, the river is more than 10 miles away from the lake, and pumping that distance would be more expensive than pumping water to some of the other 16 lakes in the report, the document states.

Expanding Little Lake Tobesofkee so much would make it larger than “big” Lake Tobesofkee in Bibb County, which relies on the same creek as its water source.

“We would be concerned that it might impact us, especially with drought conditions,” said Doug Furney, Lake Tobesofkee’s director. He added that Lake Tobesofkee had problems with a dropping water level in 1999 when more water was being held upstream in the creek for the city of Forsyth’s drinking water supply.

Carlisle said Monroe County officials have never discussed expanding the Tobesofkee Creek reservoir as a water source, although the county is in the middle of making tough decisions about how to meet its future water needs.

“We’ll need more in the next 25 years, there’s no doubt about it,” Carlisle said.

The Monroe County Commission has been deciding whether to buy and rehabilitate a water treatment plant on the Ocmulgee River, drill and interconnect more groundwater wells, or renew contracts for purchasing water from the Macon Water Authority — or some combination of options.


The Macon Water Authority’s Javors Lucas Reservoir now supplies some Monroe and Jones county residents as well as Bibb County customers. The report overestimates the current volume of that lake, so it could hold almost twice as much water if it were expanded as the report suggests. At a final volume of almost 12 billion gallons, it would be the largest of any of the 16 lakes on the report’s list.

Tony Rojas, the Macon Water Authority’s director, said the lake stores more than enough water to meet demand for a long time.

“But the good thing about this study is: When we need to expand, we can, and we can almost double our capacity,” he said.

He added that the authority could further excavate the lake within its current footprint to increase capacity without even raising the dam. But if the dam were eventually raised, it could be done without affecting any structures but the pump station, and the authority owns all the land that would be flooded, Rojas said.

That’s not the case for the city of Barnesville, which would have to flood privately owned land to expand Edie Creek Reservoir from 400 million gallons to 2.9 billion gallons. Expanding Edie Creek would likely require water from the Towaliga River, the report states.

But such a project seems unlikely because the current reservoir, which was expanded after the 1994 flood, is expected to provide all the town’s water needs for at least 20 years, City Manager Kenneth Roberts said.

Several of the other reservoirs the facilities authority identified as ripe for expansion are in nearby counties such as Spalding, Pike, Butts and Henry, but Roberts said he thinks these counties aren’t particularly thirsty for more water, either.

In fact, the report did not consider whether the 16 reservoirs were actually in the portions of the state that need additional water.

Some of the other expansion projects outlined in the report would withdraw water from rivers that flow through Middle Georgia, indirectly affecting local towns.

Four of the reservoirs with expansion potential would rely on the Flint River as a water source, according to the report: Cane Creek Reservoir in Meriwether County, Heads Creek Reservoir in Spalding County, Rush Creek Reservoir in Talbot County, and Still Branch Reservoir in Pike County. Kelly said engineers did not assess whether the river could support all three of these projects.

Paul DeLoach, board president for the new Flint Riverkeeper organization, said the state has already issued permits for removing too much water from the river basin. “The reservoir demands will contribute to the demise of the Flint, its ecosystems, and economic development downstream,” he said.

Longbranch Reservoir in Henry County also made the list. The report identified the same spot on the Towaliga River as a potential water source withdrawal for both this reservoir and Edie Creek, if either were expanded. Kelly said the river would support only one of the two projects.

The Oconee River, which is the water source for Milledgeville and Dublin, would also be the water source for an expanded Sandy Creek Reservoir in Clarke County as envisioned in the report.

Consultants for the facilities authority who compiled the report spent two months combining information from a handful of previous studies, explained Chris Clark, the agency’s executive director. There may be other viable reservoir expansion possibilities that aren’t listed because engineers couldn’t find enough readily available information about the projects, he said.

The report has been provided to legislators, and a hearing will probably be held about it in January.

“I do expect the General Assembly will want us to take this to the next level,” he said.

But Clark emphasized that regional water planning councils, which are supposed to start meeting next year, will be the ones deciding whether to pursue the reservoir expansions and how to fund them.

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

Friday, Nov. 07, 2008

Paving the way: Some midstate counties using recycled material

- hduncan@macon.com

Some rural Middle Georgia counties are finding a way to afford paving their dirt roads despite a nationwide asphalt shortage: They’re using a new recycled asphalt material developed by a company with Cochran roots.

Dykes Paving and Construction Co. Inc., an Atlanta company founded in 1968 by Cochran native Jim Dykes, manufactures asphalt made from roofing shingles, recycled oil and crushed asphalt. Called RTR, for “roof to road,” the product is distributed in the midstate from Dykes’ sand pit in Macon.

Lee Young, vice president for the company’s materials division who also is a Cochran native, said although a handful of other American companies make asphalt from shingles, only Dykes uses 100 percent recycled materials. The local use of the product has put Bleckley and Dodge counties on the cutting edge.

“We discuss this on a national level and use Bleckley and Dodge as case studies,” said Young, explaining that Dykes gives seminars and lectures at events held by the U.S. Green Build Council and the National Asphalt Paving Association. “You’ll have an engineer from California trying to develop an environmentally advanced asphalt product, and he’ll be looking at the details of a road in Cochran, Georgia,” Young said.

But the best news for rural counties with small budgets is that the cost is a third to a half the cost of traditional hot mix asphalt, said leaders in Bleckley and Dodge counties. Last week, Laurens County also paved its first road with the product, Young said.

“The citizens have been very pleased with it,” said Kelly Bowen, Dodge County manager. “As long as we see this material is going to hold up, which to all appearances it is, we will (switch) to this and we’ll be able to do more paving than in the past.” It costs Dodge half as much as traditional paving, Bowen said.

Dykes’ RTF material is a “cold mix” asphalt, meaning it doesn’t have to be heated. It doesn’t require the use of specialized equipment, allowing counties to use their own employees to pave dirt roads instead of hiring contractors at greater expense.

Bleckley and Dodge have each paved about three miles of roads with the product, starting a year and a half ago.

Bowen said, “There’s so much less involved with this than with traditional paving” through the Georgia Department of Transportation, which requires acquiring 80 feet of right-of-way. Bleckley County found that RTR roads cost a third less to install, County Commissioner Mike Polsky said. The county’s 2009 budget calls for twice as much paving. About 20 percent of county roads are unpaved, he said.

Polsky said the pavement is less susceptible to potholes than traditional asphalt and beats the former clay roads.

“We don’t have to pull buses out of ditches out there any more,” he said.

Bleckley plans to use it for resurfacing, too.

Dykes has been making its RTR asphalt for five years, but it became more marketable recently as oil and liquid asphalt prices shot up, Young said.

That price advantage drops when it must be delivered long distances. For that reason, Dykes sold it only in the Atlanta area until it purchased a sand pit in Macon off Sgoda Road two years ago, Young said. When trucks began driving to Macon to haul sand back, it started to make financial sense for them to drive south loaded with asphalt instead of empty, he said. Midstate counties send their trucks to pick up the product from Macon.

The crushed asphalt in the mix comes from broken-up Atlanta parking lots and roads that are being replaced, Young said. RTR is receiving growing interest in the Atlanta area because of the recycled content of the product, Young said.

armedbear wrote on 11/07/2008 11:23:56 AM:

That is awesome reuse of materials. I wonder if ground up tires would extend the mix? Maybe find a way to incorporate plastic bottles that according to the TV will last forever in a landfill, why not find a way to pave roads with them.

This is when/where for the final “Town Hall” meetings to be held for development of the State Water Plan.  Please try to make sure your schedule will allow you to attend and speak out at one of these town meeting.  If you wish suggested talking points, let me know and I will 
sent them for your use as soon as the GA Water Coalition folks produce and distribute them. 

A suggested overall point to be made, by you and friends you take with you, is that this State Water Plan is a feeble first step that is in no way adequate to meet the needs of GA, its people and its natural resources.  GA has spent several millions of tax dollars to create a water plan for Metro Atlanta, while this “state plan” has been funded with only $800 thousand in state money. 

 As GA is growing at the most rapid rate in its history, this “plan” is unfortunately typical of the rollbacks we are seeing for protection of the natural environment in the state.  All over GA developers have their bulldozers at work, and all over state government they are complaining about regulations and actively seeking to have protections reduced.

 This State Water Plan is far from adequate to the challenges this state faces.  You need to be at one of these  meetings to say that we need, and deserve, a real, fully funded state water plan that protects all of our river basins and our groundwater.  Partway measures like this, which is really no more than a “plan” to “plan” to have a real “plan,” are not adequate in the face of the pressure that is being brought on our natural resources.


Sam Booher       Fri, 4 May 2007    SBOOHER@AOL.COM                                                             

May 24 – Macon,    6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. , Macon State College, 100 College Station Drive ,              Macon, Georgia  31206, 478-471-2700, www.maconstate.edu/maps/

Posted on Wed, Apr. 18, 2007    http://www.macon.com/149/story/21658.html

Water restrictions tightened as Georgia moves into level 2 drought

By S. Heather Duncan - hduncan@macontel.com

The state has declared a level 2 drought statewide under its drought management plan, triggering tougher outdoor watering restrictions.

Residents may water three days a week between midnight and 10 a.m.

The declaration was made by Carol Couch, director of the state Environmental Protection Division, after a meeting of the state Drought Response Committee on Wednesday afternoon. The committee made its recommendation after hearing from EPD officials and state climatologist David Stooksbury. Couch said she will confer with the committee again in a month to assess drought conditions.

The state has been in a level 1 drought since last summer, so watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. was already forbidden. Even-numbered addresses may water Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Odd-numbered addresses may water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

For more on this story, come back to macon.com or read Thursday's Telegraph

Posted on Tue, Apr. 24, 2007           http://www.macon.com/220/story/26135.html

20 Ga. counties in extreme drought as South suffers dry spring

By RUSS BYNUM - Associated Press Writer

Drought conditions have worsened from severe to extreme in 20 southern Georgia counties, the state climatologist said Tuesday as the South suffers through an unusually dry spring.

Some parts of southern Georgia have rainfall deficits of more than 10 inches for the year. Rivers and streams in the region are showing record-low flows for April, said David Stooksbury, Georgia's state climatologist.

In 16 counties in southern Georgia and 17 counties in the northwest part of the state the drought is categorized as severe.

Because summer tends to bring less rain than spring, the drought could grow worse in coming months, Stooksbury said.

"If we have normal weather from the remainder of the spring through the summer, conditions will continue to deteriorate," he said. "This is not a good omen for the remainder of the summer."

Extreme drought means conditions are so dry that experts anticipate them no more than once every 50 years. The last time parts of Georgia saw such conditions was during the drought that lasted from 1998 to 2002.

The area of extreme drought includes Ware County, where a huge wildfire has burned more than 56,000 acres of tinder-dry forest near Waycross over the past nine days.

Drought conditions are being felt across 41 percent of the southeastern U.S. - mostly in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The South still hasn't recovered from an unseasonably dry spring last year, Fuchs said. A quiet hurricane season failed to deliver dousing tropical rains last summer and fall. And winter El Nino conditions in the Gulf of Mexico didn't produce nearly as much rainfall as expected.

"There was some recovery, but it never recovered completely," Fuchs said "And now we're right back to where we were before - and in some cases worse."

South Carolina is not experiencing a severe drought although some parts of the state should have had 4 inches more rainfall so far this season, said Mark Malsick, severe weather liaison for the state Climatology Office. "Basically, we're seeing a deficit of water that if dry conditions persist, it could turn into a more serious drought," he said.

In northern Alabama, Blount County and parts of two other counties - Jefferson and Walker - are also suffering extreme drought conditions. Water officials have asked people to heed voluntary watering restrictions.

In South Florida, officials have imposed restrictions aimed at cutting water use by 30 percent in nine counties including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Carol Wehle, director of the South Florida Water Management District, has called the drought an "unprecedented emergency situation."

Associated Press Writer Katrina A. Goggins in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

A matter of opinion

Some professions enjoy dry conditions while weather splits farmers

By Carisa Jurgens - cjurgens@macontel.com

Macon's rainfall is 3 inches below average for March and down almost 6 inches for the year already, prompting concern for some farmers but gratitude from others.

With less rain and high evaporation rates because of the recent warm snap, soil moisture across Middle Georgia is significantly lower than in years past, state climatologist David Stooksbury said, which may mean trouble for crops in the coming months.

"March is a critical time to get needed moisture into the soil for the growing season," he said.

Now, an estimated 11 percent of Middle Georgia pastures are considered very short on moisture and about 50 percent are considered short, according to the Georgia Agricultural Statistical Service.

The Ocmulgee River's stream flow, another drought indicator, was also at a record low Wednesday.

If the dry, warm conditions continue for the next two weeks, Stooksbury predicted that the region will move into moderate drought status.

Conditions have a chance to improve this weekend, with a 50 percent chance of rain Sunday night and Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The state is still under outdoor watering restrictions. In Macon, that means water customers are supposed to follow an even-odd outdoor water-use schedule, based on their home address, with no outdoor watering on Fridays.

Lack of rain helps roofers, construction workers and others, of course, but if rain doesn't come soon, it could mean hard times for some midstate farmers.

Chuck Ellis, Dooly County's extension agent, said farmers there who are growing corn and wheat have already started irrigating, which is unusual this early in the season.

"I noticed a couple of wheat fields yesterday begin to show signs of wilting in the afternoon," Ellis said, adding that wheat doesn't show drought stress easily.

Corn crops remain promising, but some farmers are concerned that soil moisture will get too depleted if they don't water now, Ellis said.

For other farmers, though, the lack of rain and abundance of dry, warm weather has been ideal.

"The weather has been perfect for peaches so far," said Robert Dickey, a peach grower in Crawford County.

Dickey said wet, cloudy conditions make peach blossoms susceptible to diseases that can harm their development, and the recent dry weather has prevented this from happening. The dry weather also makes peaches sweeter - although smaller.

Dickey said last year's peach harvest was the best he's had in years, and he credited the harvest's success in part to last spring's drier-than-normal conditions. He expects this year's peaches to be even better.

Frank Hiley, a pecan farmer who lives in Houston County and farms in several surrounding counties, also said the dry conditions so far have not hurt his crops.

Dry, warm conditions are good for pecan trees, and Hiley said the weather will be an important factor over the next two weeks when the pecan trees begin to pollinate.

To contact Carisa Jurgens, call 744-4382.



Here are tips to help create and maintain your garden this spring that require less maintenance and water:

Watering: Water only once a week in the absence of rain to provide your lawn with enough water. Be sure to soak plants by aiming the nozzle at the base of plants instead of sprinkling them with water so that more water will reach the roots.

When to water: Follow your county's outdoor watering restrictions and avoid watering in the heat of the day to conserve water and prevent evaporation. Turf areas need 1 inch of water once every seven to 10 days.

Check the weather: Turn off sprinkler systems when it is raining or install an inexpensive rain sensor shut-off switch to do it for you.

Mulch: Using pine straw, bark chips or ground hardwood mulch around the base of plants and trees helps the soil to retain moisture by preventing evaporation.

Shade: Use shade in your garden to help make temperatures 20 degrees cooler than a landscape in full sun, which will help preserve moisture. Arbors, trellises and fences with vine covers can be effective sources of shade.

Planting/plant selection: When planting trees and shrubs, dig holes at least two times wider than the root ball to encourage roots to grow outward. Read the label and plant "like" plants together and choose plants that will thrive in the local environment. Try to select plants that are drought-tolerant and require less watering.

SOURCE: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Posted on Fri, Mar. 30, 2007        http://www.macon.com/100/story/7377.html


                     Ocmulgee Sierra Club