Canton wanted the Authority to remove a “first right of refusal” clause in its 2000 joint ownership agreement with the Authority for the now-complete reservoir just outside Canton. The Authority owns 75 percent of the reservoir and Canton owns 25 percent.
But the Authority voted 6-0, with Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee (an ex officio member) absent, to tell Canton its request was a no-go.
“We’re OK with the existing contract,” said authority Chairman (and Smyrna Mayor) Max Bacon said after the meeting. “We’ve probably got issues we’d like to change too, but this is a partnership… (Changing the contract) would open up a can of worms. It’s too open-ended for us.”
Construction on the dam and 411-acre reservoir (which now holds almost 6 billion gallons of water) began a decade ago as a way of assuring an adequate supply of water for the two counties even during a prolonged drought. The cost to date has come to about $100 million — a lot at first glance, but not when considering it covers a decade’s worth of planning and construction, and especially when considering the devastating effect on local people and the local economy if we ever did run out of water, as we came close to doing several years ago. The reservoir, as much as anything, is an insurance policy against such an event. And insurance policies are not free.
The Authority hopes to be allowed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw up to 33 million gallons per day from the reservoir if such a drought should occur, and pipe them to its Wyckoff Plant on Lake Allatoona. But the Corps is dragging its heels on granting such approval.
“If they’re not going to give us credit for the water we put into Lake Allatoona, why would we put it into Lake Allatoona?” asks Water Authority general manger Glenn Page.
But Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood wrote the Authority March 20 suggesting that the Corps might not grant such authority, and that “the city of Canton should not be left holding on to this asset without the ability to take full advantage of it.”
Hence, its request to be let out of its contract. And, in response, the Authority’s “no” vote ordering Canton to adhere to the original agreement.
Authority members are rightly wary of who Canton might sell its share to, and what that entity’s plans for the water might be.
Better that the Authority stick to its guns, while simultaneously prodding the Corps to finally rule, and in favor of the Authority and its many customers in Cobb, Cherokee and other nearby counties.