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Dawson Forest Reservoir

The issue:

The city of Atlanta is considering joining forces with a private developer to build a 2,000-acre reservoir on city-owned property in Dawson Forest, some 50 miles north of Atlanta.

Our stand:

The Georgia Conservancy is opposed to the reservoir and has been working to prevent Shoal Creek in Dawson Forest from being dammed. A reservoir poses a number of dangers:

  • The project threatens two federally protected species of fish – the Etowah and Cherokee darters– which live in the Etowah River basin and nowhere else in the world.
  • Piping water south toward Atlanta would also require a massive transfer of water from the Etowah River basin to the Chattahoochee River basin. The Georgia Conservancy believes that interbasin transfers must be done in a manner that protects our natural resources and our economic future.
  • The proposed withdrawal of 100 million gallons a day would greatly stress the Etowah River at Shoal Creek, consuming almost all of the river’s volume during the dry season that runs from July to November.
  • There are political risks, too. Shoal Creek drains into the Etowah River, which runs across state lines into Alabama. Damming the creek would further complicate the ongoing legal disputes over water resources taking place among Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

“The last thing you want to do right now is to tell Alabama that you are planning to dam up 2,000 acres of water that now flows to their border and send it down the Chattahoochee,” said Will Wingate, vice president of advocacy and land conservation for the Georgia Conservancy.

Then there's the issue of water quality. During the Cold War, Lockheed used Dawson Forest to test nuclear-powered aircraft and it's possible that some radiation could make its way into the new water supply.

“The Dawson Forest is a very special piece of property,” Wingate said. “In north Georgia, we don’t have such large pieces of intact property. Ideally, the state could buy it from the aviation authority and permanently preserve it.”

JULY 2012

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Lake Lanier can remain Atlanta's primary source of water.  The urgent need to find another water source for the city has now subsided. The Court's decision should effectively put an end to any plans to dam Shoal Creek, but the option is still on the table to move forward with proposals. Advocates for the dam argue that growth in the region should be reason alone to move forward with the project.

Click here to read an update from the Gainesville Times>>

The Georgia Conservancy will keep you updated on any new developments regarding the proposal. For now, you can be confident that your opposition has been heard loud and clear by the Dawson County Commission.

SEPT 2011

On Thursday, September 22, Conservancy staff were present at the second public meeting held by the Dawson County Commission in regards to the reservoir proposal. Our own Will Wingate was one of the people to speak in front of the commission.

"There are some areas of the state that are simply too precious to see lost," Wingate said, adding that the Conservancy was willing to work with the county commission to permanently preserve Dawson Forest for the recreational enjoyment of all Georgians. He then handed the commission a list of 650 petition signatures from people opposed to the reservoir.

The Conservancy was not the only group in opposition to the proposal. The Coosa River Basin Initiative was also present, and Riverkeeper Joe Cook voiced his organization's opposition to the proposal. In total, all but one of the private citizens who spoke in front of the commission were opposed to the reservoir.

Click here to read a local story about the meeting>>

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How you can help:
The Georgia Conservancy will let you know about future opportunities to voice your opposition to the reservoir.