Project History

In February 2007, Hall County filed a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Application for a proposed Glades Reservoir project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps), Savannah District. The project, as initially proposed, was an 850-acre reservoir on Flat Creek with a yield of 6.4 million gallons per day (mgd). The proposed project was expected to meet the needs of northern and eastern Hall County (excluding areas served by the City of Gainesville Public Utilities) through 2060. This application assumed that additional Lake Lanier withdrawal will be allowed to meet the water supply need in the areas served by the City of Gainesville.

In connection with the ongoing water rights litigation between the states of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, a July 17, 2009, decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that water supply was not an originally authorized purpose of Lake Lanier. Judge Magnuson decided that under the legislation that created Lake Lanier, the Corps was not authorized to operate Lake Lanier to provide water supply at the level it was providing at the time of the ruling. The Judge established a deadline of July 2012 for Georgia to obtain Congressional approval to continue using Lake Lanier for water supply. If an agreement could not be reached by Georgia, Florida, and Alabama to share water by this time, Atlanta would only be able to withdraw the amount of water it received in the mid-1970. For the City of Gainesville and Hall County, this means the withdrawal could be reduced to 8 mgd (the amount designated in the original legislation), compared to recent withdrawal level of 16.5 to 19.2 mgd (annual average) between 2005 and 2009.

The Magnuson ruling meant that Hall County and much of metro Atlanta would need to secure substantial additional water supplies to substitute for the use of Lake Lanier. With the availability of Lake Lanier water uncertain, Hall County determined that the proposed 6.4-mgd Glades Reservoir project would be inadequate for meeting its 2060 water supply needs. Therefore, Hall County withdrew the initial application in September 2009 and submitted a Section 404 permit application for a proposed project on June 10, 2011 (file number SAS-2007-00388) that would meet its unmet water supply need of 72.5 mgd in 2060. Hall County was then notified by the Corps of the need for an EIS to process the permit request.

The Magnuson decision was overturned by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 28, 2011. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that one of the purposes for Lake Lanier was to supply water to the metro Atlanta area and directed the Corps Mobile District to make a final determination regarding water allocation from Lake Lanier within one year. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal of the 11th Circuit Court’s decision by the States of Alabama and Florida. The Corps published a legal opinion on June 25, 2012 and affirmed that the Corps has the legal authority to operate Lake Lanier to accommodate Georgia’s request for meeting its 2030 water supply needs. In this legal opinion, the Corps did not commit to accommodate all of Georgia’s requested need for 2030. Rather, the Corps stated that it will update its its Water Control Manual (WCM) with analysis to accommodate some level of water withdrawal request for Lake Lanier and downstream Atlanta and will resume the EIS process for the WCM update.

As a result of this ruling, the Applicant requested modification of their preferred project to a proposed pumped-storage reservoir project without the connection to the Cedar Creek Reservoir. A full description of the Applicant’s current preferred project is found on the Overview page.

The Applicant’s original preferred project and the current preferred project are both 72.5-mgd water supply projects that involve construction of Glades Reservoir, a pumping station on the Chattahoochee River, and a pipeline for pumping water from the Chattahoochee River to the Glades Reservoir. The Applicant’s current preferred project includes a reduction in scope of physical construction. (Note: the project proposed in the June 2011 application included extensive piping and connection to the existing Cedar Creek Reservoir. The current preferred project is not connected to the Cedar Creek Reservoir.)

The Corps conducted scoping of the Applicant’s original preferred project prior to the release of the legal opinion on June 25, 2012. Because the Applicant’s current preferred project involves a reduction in structural improvements and both projects have the same water supply purpose of 72.5 mgd, the Corps has determined that project scoping adequately addressed the Applicant’s current preferred project, and that additional project scoping is not necessary.

Below is a quick reference timeline of the tri-state water rights litigation and the proposed Glades Reservoir project.

1990 Alabama sued the Corps in federal court to contest the amount of water the Corps was allowing Georgia to withdraw from Lake Lanier
May 2000 The State of Georgia submitted a request to the Corps Mobile District for an increase of withdrawals from Lake Lanier and downstream of Buford Dam to a total of 705 mgd for meeting its water supply need by 2030
April 2002 The Corps denied Georgia’s request for increased withdrawals
February 2007 Hall County submitted a Section 404 permit for the proposed Glades Reservoir water supply project (6.4-mgd reservoir)
July 2009 U.S. District Judge Magnuson ruled that water supply was not an originally authorized purpose of Lake Lanier and the Corps was not authorized to operate Lake Lanier to meet metro Atlanta’s water supply needs. Click here to read the decision
September 2009 Hall County withdrew the initial application for the 6.4-mgd Glades Reservoir water supply project
April 2010 Georgia appealed Judge Magnuson’s ruling
June 2011 Hall County submitted a Section 404 permit application for a proposed 72.5-mgd Glades Reservoir water supply project (including a connecting pipeline and pump station to the existing Cedar Creek Reservoir).
June 2011 The 11th Circuit Court overturned Judge Magnuson’s decision and ruled that water supply was one of the original intended purposes for Lake Lanier, and ordered the Corps to determine its water allocation authority for Lake Lanier. Click here to read the decision
February 2012 Florida and Alabama filed petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the 11th Circuit Court’s decision
June 2012 The U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition to hear the appeal of the 11th Circuit Court’s decision
June 2012 The Corps published a legal opinion affirming its legal authority to operate Lake Lanier to accommodate Georgia’s request for its 2030 water supply need. Click here for the press release and here for the legal opinion
August 2012 Hall County submitted a letter to the Corps requesting a change in the preferred alternative for the current proposed Glades Reservoir project (eliminating the connection to the Cedar Creek Reservoir). Click here for the letters and here for a figure of the new preferred alternative
October 2012 The Corps issued a Notice of Intent to revise the scope of draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for updating the Water Control Manual (WCM) for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin to account for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruling and a June 2012 legal opinion of the Corps’s Chief Counsel regarding authority to accommodate municipal and industrial water supply from the Buford Dam/Lake Lanier project