Paulding Commissioners and other local officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 22 at the project site for the Richland Creek Reservoir (RCR).
The RCR will be located on approximately 700-acres of county-owned land in northern Paulding County, Post 4 Commissioner Tony Crowe's district. The RCR will be on Richland Creek, but will be filled with water from the Etowah River.
With the milestone of a ground-breaking ceremony the RCR project now moves into its construction phase, with final completion expected in 2021.
Brown and Caldwell, the largest engineering consulting firm solely focused on the U.S. environmental sector, is serving as the county's program manager and is responsible for ensuring coordination of program tasks and contractors, maintaining schedule, managing project budgets, cost accountability, and communication of program progress with the public and other stakeholders.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Brown and Caldwell's Senior Client Service Manager Mark Lethbridge read from a prepared statement on behalf of former Paulding Chairman Bill Carruth, who was unable to attend.
Serving as a Post Commissioner prior to becoming Chairman, Carruth began to pursue the RCR after realizing that Paulding was one of the only counties in the state solely dependent on another government entity, the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, for 100 percent of its water.
Carruth said, "The experience of beginning this reservoir process and serving over 11 years on the board and as Chairman of the Georgia Board of Natural Resources assured me of one thing, water is our most precious commodity ..."
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Carruth added that after a series of public information and input meetings the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to place a $3 million General Obligation Bond Issue on the ballot to purchase the land. It passed by an overwhelming margin.
In his statement Carruth characterized the project as "... likely the most important public works project in our history" and added that "... with the Richland Creek Reservoir, the county will be able to compete and attract industry ... and most importantly, we will have independence and the ability to manage our own water."
Paulding County has an agreement that runs until 2032 with Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, an independent state-chartered agency, which receives water from Lake Allatoona, a USCOE-controlled reservoir.
Atlanta Regional Commission population projections show Paulding growing to 255,000 residents by 2040. Among Georgia's 159 counties, Paulding is the 14th largest.
Carruth also noted that Commission Chairman David Austin " ... began pushing this project between being elected and being sworn-in ... and along with the other commissioners took advantage of financing opportunities, hired highly experienced and qualified consultants and moved forward to get to this day."
In July Paulding commissioners approved the construction of the Richland Creek Dam and Reservoir to lowest bidder Brad Cole Construction in the amount of $42,708,932.67.
With the permit to build the dam obtained in August, the project construction should begin to pick up steam now in the coming months, said Lethbridge.
"You're going to start seeing the dam going up now within the next month and a half," Lethbridge said.
According to Brown and Caldwell's' Kelly Comstock, chief consultant for the project, the only other major component left to be awarded for major construction is the finished Water Pipeline and Booster Pump Station, which are in the design stage and due to complete by January and then be out for bid by first quarter of next year. Construction of that phase is expected to complete by March of 2019.
Overall the program is on track with its projected $215 million total budget, Comstock told Paulding Commissioners in July.
Funding is coming from a mixture of county-issued bonds, loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, and state grants.
Earlier this year the county also approved water rate hikes to help with the RCR bonds.
"Setting up the rate adjustment ahead of time sets us up to go to the bond market to be able to basically show we've got this in place ... which should get us a better bond rate, so a better interest rate for the county," Comstock commented at the time.
The reservoir is designed to yield about 35 million gallons per day and will provide about 3.43 billion gallons of water storage to support Paulding County.