After more than decade in development and about $100 million spent, Hickory Log Creek Reservoir in Canton was set to open this month. That now may be delayed until December because of paperwork.
The Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority and the City of Canton asked for an extension until the end of the year to complete paperwork required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow the authority and the city, which is 25% owner of the reservoir, to finally start drawing water.
The reservoir has been ready to deliver water for at least six months. Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority general manager Glenn Page said Friday the delay lay with the Corps.
“It became apparent that the reviews of the documentation required by the Corps were not going to be completed by the May 31 deadline, so we asked for an extension and they gave it to us," said Page.
Page said the paperwork involves hundreds of acres of land purchased by the authority as buffers along streams, to compensate for the environmental impact of the 411-acre reservoir.
“You have to go and protect another stream to compensate for the reservoir,” said Page.
Page said the authority hopes to have the paperwork complete in weeks, but wanted the six-month extension in case the Corps required additional reviews or documentation. He said the authority likely would not have made releases from Hickory Log Creek in the last six months because water levels have been sufficient downstream in Lake Allatoona.
Releases from Hickory Log Creek go into the Etowah River, from which Canton pulls its share. The Etowah then flows into Lake Allatoona, where the authority withdraws its share of the reservoir release.
“Lake Allatoona was at full pool since December and only dropped last week by two inches,” said Page. Full pool is 840 feet. In the winter the Corps drops the lake to 823 feet to act as flood control. A one-inch rain will raise Allatoona about one foot.
Meanwhile, Canton and the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority still await a return on their reservoir investment, which was originally projected to cost about $20 million. Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said finally having access to the water from the reservoir won't give the city any financial relief, but it will provide drought relief.
"Right now, we don't need the extra water," he said. "And we are in a financial bind, but it’s not from the ability to use the reservoir, but from having to pay for the cost of building it."
The cost has hit Canton and its water customers particularly hard. Canton pays about $1.7 million a year in operating and financing costs and has been so strapped it's tried to sell its stake to Cobb County, while keeping rights to some of the water. Those talks have gone nowhere and the city has raised water rates 30%, in part to pay for the reservoir.