Commerce officials think they’ve found an inexpensive way to add 20 percent to the capacity of the city’s reservoir.
The city’s engineers are gathering data to convince the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to let the city increase the level of the lake, which is located on the Grove River in Banks County, by two feet.
“We’ve found it’s less expensive to raise the level than it would be to dredge the lake,” said Bryan Harbin, the city’s director of water and sewer operations.
The city hopes to get the go-ahead from the Safe Dams division of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in time to apply for a state grant to assist with the project.
The deadline for tapping into the $40 million in state funds is Aug. 29.
“If we don’t get the grant, we’re still not talking about a substantial amount of money,” Harbin said. “Just modify the outlet structure, and you’re good to go.”
If approved, the move would add 160 million gallons to the lake’s capacity. That’s a 100-day supply of water for the city.
Harbin has photos of the lake taken in 2005 when following strong rains it was almost five feet above full pool. He says all of the preliminary data suggests that the dam can carry the extra pressure, but that’s a call Safe Dams will make.
“There’s 20 foot of freeboard on the dam,” he points out.
Since the city already owns a 150-foot buffer, the extra water is not expected to impact private property around the lake.
“We may only be able to go up a foot, but anything we can do is better than what we’ve got now,” Harbin declared.
The shallow city reservoir has been remarkably resilient during the current drought. Last fall, when Jefferson’s reservoir ran dry and the Bear Creek Reservoir was falling, Commerce’s 300-acre lake never got more than a foot below full pool, even when the city began selling hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day to supplement Jackson County and Jefferson.