August 23, 2016

Meeting Summary: Joint Meeting August 23, 2016

Joint Council Meeting #1 – Western Councils

Coosa-North Georgia, Lower Flint – Ochlockonee, Middle Chattahoochee, and Upper Flint Councils and Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mountain Creek Inn at Callaway Gardens
17800 US Highway 27, Pine Mountain, GA 31822

Welcome, Introductions, and Overview of the Day

Gail Cowie from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) welcomed the Council members and others to the meeting. She conducted introductions of Council Chairs, EPD personnel, and planning contractors. She provided an overview of the day’s agenda. She outlined changes to the agenda, noting ongoing work by EPD and contractors on the groundwater and future surface water availability resource assessments. Updates on those assessments are planned for the next meeting.

Agricultural Water Demand Forecast

Mark Masters of the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center (GWPPC) at Albany State University presented the updated agricultural water demand forecasts for the regions of the four Councils present and the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District). A handout was circulated with the results. He began by reviewing the methods, which used the same approach as that used for the 2010 forecasts, with some minor adjustments. Future crop mix conditions were developed for each county, and water use estimates were applied based on these projected crop mixes. Additionally, it should be noted that in the preparation of the updated forecasts, agricultural meter data was used more extensively in the development of current agricultural water use estimates.

Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) facilitated discussion of Mr. Master’s presentation. She asked for clarifying questions, and for Council members to indicate what the results meant for the

Councils’ regions and whether the Councils thought the results would require revisions in the Councils’ plans. Responding to a Council member question, Mr. Masters commented that the crop acreage forecasts generated by UGA, utilizing data from USDA and other sources, is the best information available on which to base long-range agricultural demand forecasts. There were no further questions or comments.

Overview of Surface Water Availability Resource Assessment Results

Dr. Wei Zeng of EPD presented the results of the updated surface water availability resource assessment for current conditions. He explained the methods, which used the same basic approach as that used for the 2010 resource assessment. Dr. Zeng also summarized the enhancements that have been made since the 2010 resource assessment, including new agricultural metering data, consumptive water use data through 2013, and new nodes added. He then reviewed examples of results for a regulated and an unregulated node. A handout was circulated, and the handout provided results for the current conditions assessment for the river basins that occur within the regions of the four Councils present at the meeting and the Metro Water District region.

Dr. Zeng explained how the presentation of the resource assessment results had been modified to explain any observed gaps for surface water availability in more detail than in the previous planning cycle. He said that most observed gaps are short, shallow, and may be more easily addressed with management practices. Consequently these short duration gaps could be a focus for Councils during the review and revision process.

Kristin Rowles facilitated discussion of Dr. Zeng’s presentation. She asked for clarifying questions and for Council members to indicate what the results meant for the Councils’ regions and whether the Councils thought the results would require revisions in the Councils’ plans. The following is a summary of the discussion:

  • Dr. Zeng clarified that the graphs in the handout that show modeled streamflow are focused on single years. This was in response to a question about a dramatic change in flow from December to January. The graphs only show a single year taken from the whole period of record; therefore the flow at the end of the year is not expected to be similar to the flow at the beginning of the year.
  • Dr. Zeng explained that calibration was a part of the modeling process, and the results were generally well calibrated with observed conditions.
  • A Council Chair commented that the meaning of the observed gaps is not clear. Dr. Zeng said that the basis for the gap determination is the state’s instream flow policy. Dr. Zeng said that he would like to work with the Councils to identify the resource-based values that the Councils would like to protect and then to identify flow regimes based on those values. Another Council Chair asked about a mechanism to do this. Dr. Zeng suggested that the Councils work with their planning contractors to identify values and bring these back to EPD for discussion.
  • A Council member asked how the Water Control Manual (WCM) revisions relate to the resource assessment. Dr. Zeng said that the State of Georgia has commented on the WCM revision process for both the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Basins. The ACT WCM is currently the subject of litigation. For the ACF, the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the WCM identified a preferred action alternative. Georgia has submitted an updated demand request for the ACF. The final EIS is planned for release in December or January. At that time, we will have more definitive information on the expected revisions to the ACF WCM.
  • A Council Chair commented that the minimum percentages of conservation storage remaining were quite different for Lakes Lanier and West Point (43% vs. 9%) and expressed concern that West Point would get as low as it does in the model. Dr. Zeng noted that the US Army Corps of Engineers tends to protect upper system reservoir storage as a priority for more flexibility in management during low flows, and the model simulations reflect this operational practice.
  • A Council member asked if the flow regime that is targeted in the assessment considers the requirements for NPDES flows. Dr. Zeng responded that the assessment flow regime is based on monthly 7Q10, which is higher than annual 7Q10, on which NPDES permits are based. Therefore the resource assessments’ target flows are therefore higher than the NPDES permit flow requirements.
  • A Council Chair asked if poultry production is treated as agriculture or industry in the water forecasts that were used for the resource assessments. Mark Masters responded that water use by poultry houses was included in the agricultural water use estimates in both this round and the previous round of planning.

After the discussion, Gail Cowie of EPD advised that the agency is continuing to monitor drought conditions across the state. A conference call was held recently for 70 counties in northern Georgia to discuss a potential declaration of drought response level 1, which would require water utilities to inform customers of the drought conditions and water conservation actions. The current outdoor watering schedule would continue to apply.

After the Council discussion, the group broke for lunch.

Council Break-Out Sessions

After lunch, the four Councils held individual Council meeting sessions. Meeting summaries for these sessions are attached as appendices to this document.

Joint Council Session

The Council members and representatives of the Metro Water District reassembled for a joint meeting. The four Chairs of the Councils and one Metro Water District Board member gave opening remarks on the review and revision process. These remarks were made by:

  • Richard Royal, Chair of the Lower Flint-Ochlockonee Regional Water Planning Council
  • Donald Chase, Chair of the Upper Flint Regional Water Planning Council
  • Steve Davis, Chair of the Middle Chattahoochee Regional Water Planning Council
  • David Ashburn, Chair of the Coosa-North Georgia Regional Water Planning Council
  • Tim Thoms, At-Large Member of the Board of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District

The Metro Water District is current updating its water plan on the same schedule as the regional water councils. Mr. Thoms said that the Metro Water District plans to work with the Councils to get their input when it has a draft plan available for review. Kristin Rowles noted that some of the Councils have appointed subcommittees to engage in this review process with the Metro Water District.

Kristin Rowles facilitated the joint Council discussion. She noted that some of the Councils have existing joint recommendations that need to be reviewed and considered for updating and revision during this planning cycle. She said that the planning contractors will work with the Chairs of these Councils, possibly in a small joint subcommittee, to conduct this review (Lower Flint-Ochlockonee, Upper Flint, and Middle Chattahoochee Councils). She said that the same three Councils have a joint resolution to present at this meeting.

Richard Royal presented the joint resolution. In the individual council meetings, these three Councils each adopted the following resolution:

The Lower Flint-Ochlockonee, Middle Chattahoochee, and Upper Flint Councils recommend a delay in the regional water plan review and revision process. The Council Chairs will communicate with each other and EPD to determine the next appropriate meeting time.

Chairman Royal said that the Council wanted to be sure that their planning would be proceeding based upon all of the information that they need to conduct their review and revisions. Chairmen Steve Davis (Middle Chattahoochee) and Donald Chase (Upper Flint) indicated that their Councils agree and have adopted the same resolution.

Chairman David Ashburn (Coosa-North Georgia) said that his Council supports the other Councils on this joint resolution, but noted that their Council did not need the same delay in the process because it has more resource assessment information available at this time.

Gail Cowie (EPD) thanked the Councils for their recommendation and said she would review it with EPD and consider it with respect to the schedules of the other Councils, the public review process, and budget requirements. Kristin Rowles noted that the resolution could affect the timing of the next meeting, which is currently scheduled for October 5. She said that she would let the Council members know about the timing of the next meeting as soon as possible. Gail Cowie also mentioned that there would be a joint meeting of the eastern Regional Water Planning Councils on October 6 in Dublin, Georgia.

In response to a Council member question, Brooke Anderson (Coosa-North Georgia Council) provided an overview of the North Georgia Water Resources Partnership’s work, which includes monthly meetings, and the funding for the partnership, which includes annual membership fees.

Gail Cowie reminded the group that there is a November deadline for seed grant funding from EPD. Information is available at plan-seed-grant-funds

Kristin Rowles asked if the Council members had other joint business to raise or shared concerns to discuss. At this time, there was nothing further offered for discussion.

Kristin Rowles thanked the Council members for their time and participation in the meeting. The meeting was adjourned.

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