Meeting Summary: Middle Ocmulgee Regional Council
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
To: Middle Ocmulgee (MOC) Regional Water Planning Council
From: Veronica Craw, GA EPD, MOC Liaison
Paula Feldman, Freese and Nichols
Casey Porter, Freese and Nichols
Laura Franklin, Freese and Nichols
Subject: Meeting Summary: MOC Regional Water Planning Council Meeting
Date: April 26, 2022
Welcome and Introductions
Middle Ocmulgee Chair, Elmo Richardson, welcomed the group and called the meeting to order at 10:00 AM. Paula Feldman introduced herself and Freese and Nichols as the Council’s planning support contractor moving forward with support by Casey Porter and Laura Franklin. Paula then invited everyone in the virtual meeting to introduce themselves.
Paula provided an overview of the agenda topics:
- Council Business
- Surface Water Availability
- Water Quality Resource Assessment Updates
- Metro Water District Update
- Trash Free Waters Workshop Reminder and Lake Jackson/Lloyd Shoals Relicensing Updates
- Groundwater Availability Resource Assessments
- Draft Regional Water Plan – Review Section Updates for 1 and 2 and Forecasts Section 4
- Council members approved the January 12, 2022 meeting minutes unanimously.
- Council members approved the April 26, 2022 meeting agenda.
- Questions related to Council business:
- Question: John Bembry asked if there were any updates on the vacant positions on the Council.
Answer: Jennifer Welte, GA EPD’s Assistant Watershed Protection Branch Chief and Regional Water Planning manager, said EPD is working with the Governor’s office and four (4) councils are awaiting appointments from the Governor’s office. From there, EPD will work with the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House. This Council is currently still awaiting appointments.
- Question: Tony Rojas asked how many vacancies does the Council currently have?
Answer: Jennifer replied there are 7 to 8 vacancies from members who haven’t participated or who have resigned. Chairman Richardson added there hasn’t been consistent participation over the last eighteen (18) months.
- Question: Is there one consolidated place where our representative can send recommendations for the empty slots?
Answer: Jennifer informed the Council they can email her or Veronica Craw their recommendations. Jennifer provided her email address in the group chat.
Surface Water Availability Resource Assessment Updates (Dr. Wei Zeng, GA EPD, Water Supply Program Manager)
Dr. Wei Zeng presented updates on Surface Water Availability and several BEAM model results were presented. EPD used various historical hydrologic conditions to evaluate impacts under Baseline (2010-2018) and projected Future (2060) water demands. Multiple examples were shown for both the water supply and wastewater assimilation challenges metrics.
Wei shared a sample of model results for the water supply challenges metric:
- Macon Water Authority: No shortages predicted for Macon Water Authority’s reservoir. Tony Rojas noted that the “Town Creek Reservoir” has changed names to “Javors Lucas Lake.” Tony requested that the documents be updated to reflect the name change.
- City of Forsyth: Some shortages are predicted in the Baseline conditions, but become less severe in the Future conditions. This shift is a result of increasing future wastewater returns by 4.84 MGD by the upstream City of Barnesville. The Barnesville increase was validated in further review by EPD. Barnesville’s water supply is obtained from three withdrawal permits, two surface and one groundwater.
- City of Monticello: Shows significant supply shortages in both Baseline and Future demands. The shortfall is due largely to a lack of locally provided information on the reservoir; in the absence of that information EPD assumed zero reservoir storage in the modeling analysis.
Wei next shared a sample of model results on the wastewater assimilation challenges metric:
- City of Perry has both Baseline and Future challenges with streamflow being below the 7Q10 in drought conditions.
Additional performance measures and material for council consideration:
- Elevation, inflow, and release information and is available from the Lake Jackson node to facilitate various assessments. This information is available for any modeling desired by the Council.
- An example was shown of a performance metric for boating, where the number of days above 6 feet of water were predicted at Macon.
- Wei noted that EPD will work with the planning contractor to assist with developing a figure, graph, or table that will depict the 7Q10 to the Council. This will be sent to the Council prior to the next meeting.
Question: Mark Wyzalek recommended changing the units from cfs to MGD for presentation of information. Wei suggested including both cfs and MGD units moving forward.
Question: John Bembry asked if the projected use includes Ocmulgee National Park impacts for recreational use?
Answer: Wei responded that this models water, not recreational needs. EPD would need to be provided with a classification of need linking flow to levels of recreational use in order to provide that assessment.
Tony Rojas observed that low levels at the Macon node are predicted corresponding to drought years, so it’s unclear whether anything can be done to “move the needle.” Wei agreed.
Wei reviewed fish habitats and how it is impacted by the changes in water resource management. Most fish habitat is at mid/low range of flow, which may be counter intuitive, but is the preferred habitat for certain species of fish. Wei reviewed several example metrics for fish habitat.
Water Quality Resource Assessment Updates (Jennifer Welte, GA EPD, Assistant Branch Chief and Regional Water Planning manager)
Jennifer Welte reviewed data from the last MOC meeting provided by Dr. Liz Booth, EPD. Jennifer also touched on the model methodology as noted in Plan sections 3.2.1 and 5.3.2. The Water Quality Assimilative Capacity Resource Assessment results for dissolved oxygen (DO) is based on a comparison of modeled DO levels to the water quality standard of 5.0 mg/L or natural conditions, whichever is lower.
- Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Modeling Results:
- Flint Basin results show no major issues.
- Oconee Basin shows some challenges in the Baseline Condition which improve under Future conditions and assumed future permitted flows and effluent limits.
- Ocmulgee Basin results show no major issues. Interestingly, a formerly red line in the figure from the last round of modeling is now yellow, meaning “Moderate” DO levels instead of “None/Exceeded,” indicating mild improvement.
Question: Tony Rojas asked what caused the changes in DO modeling results?
Answer: Jennifer noted that changes in the modeling output were driven by an expansion to the models to include more tributaries and discharges, as well as beginning with 2019 permit conditions instead of 2015 permit conditions.
- Watershed and Lake Results:
- Lake Jackson phosphorus results look favorable, but nitrogen results show some exceedances in low-flow conditions. A possible change to the criterion to consider the growing season, along with careful watershed management, may be warranted.
- Nonpoint sources were determined using the watershed modeling tool.
- The lake’s chlorophyll-a levels are within the criterion, but it was noted that over half of the contributions are from nonpoint sources.
- Jennifer noted that there was a 1-year exceedance of the chlorophyll-a criterion in 2020, but EPD looks at multiple years and so Lake Jackson is compliant. Notably, 2020 was a year with higher measured chlorophyll-a levels for all reservoirs in Georgia.
Question: Tony asked how EPD was able to determine what non-point sources contribute?
Answer: Jennifer Welte responded by saying in the nutrient modeling analysis, the resulting heat maps show the estimated loads of nitrogen and phosphorus under representative dry and wet year conditions. During a wet year condition, the nutrient levels are impacted by non-point sources, while during a dry year condition they are impacted by point sources (wastewater treatment facilities). Estimated nutrient loads during a wet year condition are driven by rainfall runoff over the various land use types in the basin.
Metro Water District Updates (Jennifer Welte, GA EPD)
Jennifer Welte informed the Council members that an early draft of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District) Plan was shared on April 11, 2022; the Metro Water District requests comments by May 11, 2022. Jennifer reviewed updates to various Sections of the draft Plan, shown in the provided slides. Some key highlights and discussion followed:
- Forecasted water and wastewater updates are in-line with previous estimates.
- Metro Water District is eliminating several action items which are no longer necessary.
Question: Tony Rojas asked if we have actual flows as compared to permitted values?
Answer: Christine Voudy and Jennifer Welte confirmed actual data is included in the plan, and showed current vs permitted data as well as updated baselines of the forecast in the presentation slides.
Question: John Bembry asked if any allowance is made for the amount of groundwater that becomes treated surface water.
Answer: Christine Voudy confirmed that it is evaluated and depends on the local area. The Metro Water District delineates which areas are on septic vs. sewer and groundwater vs surface water supply.
Question: Tony Rojas asked how these forecasts, based on current baseline demands which are lower than before the 2007 drought, compare to older forecasts which used to be higher.
Answer: Jennifer confirmed these forecasts are based on current per-capita use, which came down due to plumbing codes, conservation, and better management.
Question: Tony Rojas asked if the Metro Water District plan provides interbasin transfer data.
Answer: Jennifer Welte confirmed the data is still being compiled, but it will be in the 2022 plan update.
Trash Free Waters Workshop Reminder (Veronica Craw, GA EPD, MOC Council Liaison)
Veronica Craw presented details on EPA’s South Atlantic Strategy for Trash Free Waters. Veronica discussed the upcoming meeting, April 27, 2022 at 10AM EST (registration required), which she plans to attend. She will provide follow-up information to the Council.
Lake Jackson/Lloyd Shoals Relicensing Updates (Courtenay O’Mara, Georgia Power, Hydro Licensing and Compliance Supervisor)
Courtenay O’Mara presented an update on the Lake Jackson/Lloyd Shoals Relicensing. Typical FERC relicensing takes around five (5) years and she noted that Georgia Power is making good progress with the relicensing for Lake Jackson. The Environmental Assessment for the project will be forthcoming, pending any further additional information requests. Lake Jackson is typically operated with a discharge of 400 cfs or inflow, whichever is lower. In a drought, an absolute minimum of 250 cfs has been used previously to preserve downstream habitat. Per the suggestion of EPD, this has been included as a part of the new license. Aeration is to be prioritized during the recreational season.
Question: Tony Rojas asked what the minimum flow used to be and if the 250 cfs will be a requirement for Georgia Power?
Answer: Courtenay noted there was no previous absolute minimum. Coming out of a drought they intend to refill Lake Jackson as quickly as possible while protecting habitat and downstream users, and everyone is encouraged to reach out if 250 cfs seems like too low of a number.
Courtenay provided references for where the Council can find more information online. Additionally, Ferc.gov has updated the docket number to the following: #P-2336-101.
Groundwater Availability Resource Assessment Updates (Christine Voudy, GA EPD, Groundwater Supply)
Christine Voudy presented an overview of the Groundwater Availability Resource Assessments.
- North of the Fall Line: Focused on the Crystalline Rock aquifer, and the study which was limited to small regions in Northwest GA (Piedmont and Blue Ridge). In the study areas, flow is provided through rock fractures in a similar manner as the northern region of the MOC basin.
- A water budget approach was chosen due to strong groundwater and surface water interactions. Streamflow is therefore the indicator of groundwater recharge.
- A dramatic difference in sustainable yield was produced between the Piedmont (1.6 – 7.9 MGD) and Blue Ridge (19.9 – 99.5 MGD) study areas.
- The big takeaway from the analysis is that the question in the Crystalline Rock formation is not whether the aquifer at large can supply flow, but rather whether a water utility can find rock fractures which enable that flow to be provided locally. It is much more hit-or-miss than below the fall line, which is why utilities tend to use groundwater as a supplemental source north of the fall line.
- South of the Fall Line: Study area covers all of South Georgia
- The modeling approach consists of a MODFLOW model with 1-mile grids, negligible horizontal flows, and all uses aggregated onto the center point of each grid.
- Generally, results showed that water uses are within sustainable yield limits, but notably, the sub-regional models of the Cretaceous Sand and Floridan aquifers only covered a portion of the aquifer areas and those portions represented in the sub-regional models reflect the areas of the aquifer most accessible to users. However, the entire extents of those aquifers are more vast than that represented in the Sub-Region models.
- Concentration of wells in Peach & Houston Counties is also near a large number of wells in Macon County, showing how two council areas can affect one another with the potential for regional drawdown.
- Historic well data for two wells in the area shows a decline in well level beginning in 1995, and now stabilizing in recent years to a few feet below historical norms. A tight correlation has been shown between these historical well levels and droughts. This may be related to elevated levels of groundwater pumping during droughts.
- Elmo Richardson asked what effect agricultural uses have had on aquifer levels. Christine Voudy noted that forecasted agricultural use is expected to be most of the future increases in groundwater use.
Draft Regional Water Plan – Updates to Sections 1, 2 and 4 (Paula Feldman, FNI)
Paula Feldman reviewed the Regional Water Plan Section Updates to the Council for Sections 1, 2, and 4. Section 3 is awaiting further data. Some highlights included:
- Updates to Figures in Sections 1 and 2.
- Ben Copeland, Jr. notes that Figure 2-1 looks like a reservoir is consuming Crawford County; however, this is the symbology of the Flint River basin, which will be updated.
- Total Water Demands are higher in the near-term than in the 2017 plan, but there is now a drop in year 2040 due to Plant Scherer being decommissioned which affects both the water and wastewater forecasts for 2060.
Additional comments may be emailed to [email protected].
Public Comments from Non-Council Members, Visitors, or the General Public
No public comments.
Next Steps and Wrap Up
Chairman Richardson reminded the Council that the next meeting will be in-person either July or August and adjourned the meeting.
Council Members Present:
- Elmo Richardson, Chairman
- Ben Copland, Jr.
- Cassandra Cox
- John Bembry
- Larry McSwain
- Mark Wyzalek
- Robert Dickey
- Tony Rojas
- 478-461-1882 (Unknown caller)
- 478-956-2411 (Unknown caller)
Partners & Visitors
- Courtenay O’Mara, Georgia Power
- Mike Hopkins, Newton County WSA
- April Cunard, City of Byron
- Paul McDaniel, Georgia Forestry Commission
- Carol Flaute, Northeast Georgia Regional Commission
- Jenna Martin, Engineer with GHD
- Jeremy Hess, Engineer with GHD
GA Environmental Protection Division
- Jennifer Welte, Assistant Watershed Protection Branch Chief and Regional Water Planning manager
- Veronica Craw, MOC Council Liaison & Nonpoint Source Program Manager
- Christine Voudy, Groundwater Unit, Water Supply Program
- Dr. Wei Zeng, Water Supply Program Manager
Freese and Nichols, Inc. (Planning Contractors)
- Paula Feldman, Council Lead
- Casey Porter, Council Support
- Laura Franklin, Council Support/Logistics