Meeting Summary: Middle Chattachoochee Council January 10, 2017

Meeting Summary

Middle Chattahoochee Regional Water Council Meeting

Columbus Water Works

January 10, 2017

Welcome, Introductions, Chairman's Discussion

Middle Chattahoochee Council Chair Steve Davis thanked the members for attending the meeting. Council members and guests then introduced themselves. Kristin Rowles (GWPPC) reviewed the meeting agenda.

Groundwater Availability Assessment Results

Christine Voudy and Dr. Jim Kennedy (GAEPD) then reviewed the results from the groundwater availability resource assessment (slides available, summary results distributed in pre-meeting packet). Topics discussed included groundwater resource availability for the Clayton and Claiborne aquifers under current and projected demands as well as additional groundwater studies recently completed on the Claiborne Aquifer. It was noted that transient modeling that will evaluate the impacts of withdrawals to consider variation within a year (seasonality) is underway, but will not be complete before June. Council discussion on the groundwater resource assessment addressed the following:

  • Are there withdrawals from the Clayton?
    • There are withdrawals from the Clayton but there have been no new Clayton withdrawals since the moratorium on new withdrawals was put in place in the 1980s.
  • It would be helpful to see a map of withdrawal points from the major aquifers that are assessed (Claiborne and Clayton).
  • Are there any targets or goals for groundwater augmentation or replacement for surface water withdrawals?
    • No targets are in place at this time.
  • How does the interest in use of deeper aquifers affect our region? It seems that reducing surface water withdrawals in the Flint could lead to greater in-stream flows there and that could result in decreased releases (and flows) in the Chattahoochee to meet downstream flow targets.
  •  Can you explain why the moratorium on Clayton use is still in place? They seem to be adding Clayton wells in Alabama.
    • Dr. Kennedy said that there was a marked decline in the Clayton in the 1980’s that led to the moratorium and that there has been very little recovery of the aquifer since then.
    • A Council member commented that the Clayton has a very small recharge area.
    • Regarding Alabama Clayton wells, Dr. Kennedy said that the resource assessment groundwater model takes into account the known Clayton groundwater withdrawals in Alabama but estimates of the sustainable yield were based upon increases in groundwater withdrawals in the Georgia portion of the aquifer region.
    • Dr. Kennedy offered that the baseline Clayton withdrawals during the time of the resource assessment analysis were around 30 mgd. The low end of the sustainable yield is 37 mgd and the high end is 67 mgd.
  • Responding to a Council member question, Dr. Kennedy offered that in southwest Georgia, the Claiborne is around 750 feet deep, and the Clayton is deeper.

Surface Water Availability Resource Assessment Results

Christine Voudy and Dr. Wei Zeng (GAEPD) next reviewed the results from the surface water availability resource assessment (slides available, summary results distributed in pre-meeting packet). Topics discussed included a review of the surface water assessment methods and assessment results under both current and projected future water demand levels. Council discussion on the surface water resource assessment addressed the following:

  • Confirmation was given that the surface water assessment incorporated the reservoir operations that are reflected in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ACF Water Control Manual.
  • It would be helpful to convert the results from minimum % conservation storage remaining to lake levels, which most of the Council members understand better.
    • Dr. Zeng said that this can be done in the technical memo that summarizes the surface water availability resource assessment for the Council.
  • In the model, current demands are based on water use and returns data for 2011 (drought year), and future demands are based on projected 2050 water use demands and projected 2050 wastewater discharges.  The 2050 projections (annual average values) were then converted into monthly average values (a monthly distribution pattern) based on analysis of actual data from 2011. Wastewater returns in the Metro Atlanta area, under current conditions, averaged approximately 70%.
  • A Council member asked why the USACE EIS had a return rate assumption of 40% for the Metro Region.
    • Dr. Zeng said that USACE calculates returns for each stream reach, and some of the returns from the Metro region were returned in a downstream stream reach. The overall return for that region as calculated for the EIS, when considering multiple stream reaches, are similar to those calculated for this assessment.
  • GAEPD provided additional explanation that “acre-foot” is measure of volume used for water.
    • A Council member commented that an acre-foot of water removed from a shallow reservoir could be more impactful to lake levels than an acre foot removed from a deeper reservoir. 
  • Christine reminded the Council that the gap was calculated against a low flow metric of monthly 7Q10 or natural flow, whichever is lower. Dr. Zeng offered that a single day flow gap could be higher than the average gap and encouraged Council members to focus on more than the single maximum day gap calculation, which occurs on one day in the 70 year + period of record.
  • Dr. Zeng said that GAEPD has detail on other planning nodes within the Basin for which analysis can be provided upon request. A Council member said that he would like to see the summary results for Whitesburg and Columbus.

Vision and Goals

Kristin Rowles then reminded the Council that it had agreed on modifications to the Vision and Goals at its April 2016 meeting, but did not have a quorum at that meeting. She presented the revisions that were discussed at that meeting and asked the Council to consider approval.  A quorum was present.

For the Vision statement, the Council had discussed editing the statement to address Council members’ interests in including scientific research and data as a tool for attaining the vision. The following is the edited Vision statement that the Council agreed on in April 2016 (edits marked in red):

Our vision is that our descendants have safe, clean and abundant water to meet their needs in the Middle Chattahoochee Region; seeking to accomplish that through reasonable efforts in cooperation, education, scientific research, best available data, and preservation.

Following a motion by Jimmy Knight and a second by Harry Lange, the Council approved the revised Vision Statement by consensus.

Next, for the Goals, the Council had agreed to add the following to their list of goals at the April 2016 meeting to address Council members’ interests in promoting and supporting inter-state coordination in water planning:

9. Inter-state Water Planning: The plan will recognize the importance of inter-state coordination in water planning to provide for sustainable management of shared water resources.

Following a motion by Ken Penuel and a second by Matt Windom, the Council approved the revisions to the Council Goals by consensus.

Updates on Water Resource Topics and Planning Items in Region

Christine Voudy (GAEPD) reported that the trial phase of the Florida v. Georgia Supreme Court litigation (Florida v. Georgia No. 142 Original) is complete, and the Special Master’s opinion is pending. A final ruling from the full Supreme Court is not anticipated until at least late 2017. She noted that the regional water planning process will not be modified based on the schedule for the case. The regional water planning process includes ten Councils and the Metro Water District, and it is important to keep these planning entities on the same schedule to support coordination. The timing of a final decision and implementation of that decision are uncertain. If there is an outcome to the litigation that might warrant modifications to the regional plans, changes can be considered at the appropriate time. Ms. Voudy also reported that the final USACE Water Control Manual has been released and is out for public comment. Council member discussion addressed the following:

  • A Council member commented that the USACE may have to modify the ACF Water Control Manual based on the Supreme Court ruling.
  • A Council member commented that the Special Master has required the states to meet and report on a final mediation attempt prior to January 24.
  • A Council member commented that the revised Water Control Manual seems to offer little benefit to the Middle Chattahoochee region and does not address many of the Council’s previously noted concerns (e.g., West Point Lake rule curve adjustment, flow node at Columbus).
  • Dr. Zeng said that the GAEPD recommended that the USACE consider the Georgia Contemplation model run that included a control node at Columbus and a change in the West Point Lake winter rule curve. He offered that USACE will likely need to further investigate many of the recommendations submitted in comments to USACE, especially with regard to flood control. George McMahon (ARCADIS) suggested that USACE is concerned about catastrophic flood events.
  • A Council member offered that one potential recommendation from the Council could be to urge the USACE to consider GAEPD flood control study efforts and to appropriate funds for additional flood control studies as needed by USACE.

Lunch Break

Report from Committee on November 29 Meeting

Chairman Steve Davis reported on a recent meeting of a Council committee with the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District (Metro Water District). He said that demands in the Metro area are lower than in the District’s 2009 plan, and he noted that the District has also made significant advances in conservation. He suggested that additional improvements in returns could be made to improve downstream flows.

Another topic of discussion at the meeting was the District’s interest in the USACE crediting water systems for returns to storage in Lake Lanier. A Council member asked for clarification, and it was explained that such credits would create an incentive for water systems to send returns to the lake rather than to downstream return points. A Council member asked what impact this would have on downstream flows. Dr. Zeng indicated that the difference is mainly the account balance of the returning party and that it would not be likely to change downstream flows.

Kristin Rowles said that the Metro Water District draft plan update is now available for review, and the District held a conference call for Council members last week on the draft document. Comments on the draft plan update are due to the District by February 17. The committee will need to complete its review and draft comment letter in advance of the Council’s February 8 meeting so that the comment letter can be considered for approval at that meeting. Kristin will help to coordinate the committee in this effort.

Project Report: Water Supply Alternatives for Surface Water Agricultural Irrigators in Ichawaynochaway Sub-Basin and Discussion of Results Relevance to Plan Update

Mark Masters and Doug Wilson (GWPPC) then provided the Council a report on work related to groundwater source alternatives for agricultural surface water irrigators in the Ichawaynochaway Basin (slides available). The project was done with the support of a regional water plan implementation seed grant, and it addresses a recommendation in the plans of the Middle Chattahoochee, Upper Flint, and Lower Flint-Ochlockonee Councils. In general, the study has indicated that there is potential to replace some surface water withdrawals with groundwater sources in the region, but additional research on site specific conditions and potential impacts would need to be evaluated and considered. An alternative approach to transferring surface water irrigators to groundwater might be to offset surface water withdrawals with groundwater sourced augmentation. This approach could avoid the cost for re-configuring irrigation systems and connections to their source water supply. Council member discussion on the presentation addressed the following:

  • Responding to a Council member question from Matt Windom, Mr. Wilson confirmed that GAEPD has information on acreage irrigated by surface water for agricultural water withdrawal permit holders in the Ichawaynochaway Basin. This information might help in understanding the potential impact of transferring or offsetting surface water sourced irrigation.
  • A Council member expressed concern that converting surface water withdrawals to groundwater sources could come at significant expense to the land owner.
  • A Council member suggested that there could be opportunities for augmenting surface water flow rather than replacing specific agricultural surface water withdrawals. He offered that there might be water quality concerns with augmenting surface flows with water from deeper aquifers.
  • In response to a Council member question about considering groundwater alternatives above the fall line, Dr. Jim Kennedy (GAEPD) offered that groundwater availability north of the fall line is generally dependent on fractures within rock.
  • In response to a Council member question, Mr. Wilson said that withdrawals from the Claiborne can influence streamflow, but not to the same extent that this effect occurs in the Upper Floridan Aquifer, where it is quite pronounced.

Plan Update: Priorities, Schedule, and Process

Kristin Rowles next reviewed the process and agenda for completing the draft revised Middle Chattahoochee Regional Water Plan by the end of March (slides available). Below is the schedule of meetings. She also discussed the major plan elements to be reviewed and revised, and a summary of these is presented below. Next, Kristin reviewed the Council’s priorities for the review and revision process. She noted the possible need for committee work to meet the planning timeline. She said that she will be sending plan revisions based on today’s discussions for Council consideration at the next Council meeting. Given the tight schedule, the next pre-meeting packet may not be available a full two weeks in advance of the February meeting, but Kristin said that it will be provided as early as possible.


Vision and Goals

Section 1

Approve April 2016 revisions

(Feb meeting)

Forecasts and Resource Assessments

Sections 3, 4,  & 5

Revise to reflect updates in technical information

Management Practices

Section 6

Review and revise at January and February meetings


Section 7.4

Other Content

Sections 2, 7 & 8

Revise based on changes to Management Practices and updated technical information

Small Group Discussions – Review of Priority Management Practices and Recommendations

Next, Kristin asked the Council members to divide into small groups to discuss possible revisions to areas of the plan that relate to today’s presentations regarding surface water and groundwater availability. These groups focused on Management Practices (Section 6) and Recommendations to the State (Section 7.4).  Hand-outs of these sections were provided for the small group discussions.

Kristin said that the group facilitators have notes on areas of these sections to focus on based on the Council’s 2015 Revision and Revision Priorities Report, 2014 Implementation Assessment Report, the updated resource assessment results, and recent Council discussions. The objective for the break-out group discussions was to get input on how to modify these parts of the plan. The input will provide guidance to the consultant team to draft revisions. Council decisions on the revisions will be taken up at the next meeting.

The first group focused on the Management Practices in Section 6 regarding Water Quantity and Returns Management and related Recommendations to the State in 7.4.  Based on the small group discussion, the following will be the main areas of focus for revisions for the Council to consider:

  • Update the Management Practices to reflect policy changes since 2011 (e.g., Flint River Drought Protection Act, drought management rules).
  • Modify the Water Quantity Management Practices that include the terms Tier 1 through Tier 4 to describe conservation measures. It would be preferable to avoid the use of these terms, which rely on reference to another document.
  • Provide additional references to recent supporting studies for water returns.
  • Strengthen and simplify water conservation text regarding conservation oriented rate structures.
  • Consider additional language encouraging smaller systems to conduct water loss audits.
  • Update Section 7.4 Recommendation 2 to reflect the existing water use compilation for Alabama water demands and the updated energy sector water demand forecasting. 

The second group focused on the Management Practices in Section 6 regarding Supply Management and Instream Use and the Recommendations in Section 7.4 regarding Surface Water and Groundwater Availability related topics. Based on the small group discussion, the following will be the main areas of focus for revisions for the Council to consider:

  • Update the Management Practices and Recommendations to reflect policy changes since 2011 (e.g., Flint River Drought Protection Act, drought management rules, revised WCM).
  • Update items related to the ACF Water Control Manual to focus on the Council’s recommendations for further improvement, including a West Point Lake winter rule curve and evaluation of additional storage in system reservoirs, including Lake Lanier. Also add support for dredging to increase conservation storage in system reservoirs.
  • Add language about additional protections when/if ASR is considered.
  • Focus the items related to storage more on implementation than on study.
  • Consider incorporating the ACF Stakeholder recommendation for institutional options while also being careful of Council member concerns about increasing the layers of government in the region (replace, not add)
  • Modify the recommendation regarding return flows from the Metro Water District to focus on auditable returns
  • Consider the need to strengthen erosion and sedimentation control Management Practices to address water quality concerns associated with logging operations (next meeting).

The Council reconvened and briefly reviewed the above outcomes of the small group discussions. Kristin reported that technical support staff would review Council member input and bring suggested edits to the plan at the next Council meeting.

Public Comment

Chris Manganiello (Chattahoochee Riverkeeper) asked if there was an updated energy assessment for this round of water planning. Steve Simpson reported that Black & Veatch summarized the updated energy assessment for the Middle Chattahoochee Council in the forecasting technical memorandum, but as in the last round, forecasted water use for the sector is statewide, not geographically specific. Mr. Manganiello asked if the Council will be able to consider potential impacts of a possible future nuclear power facility in Stewart County. Chairman Davis suggested that the plan should include language (possibly in Section 7.4, Recommendation 2) that serves to recognize the need to consider the potential for increased water demand from future power generation as more information becomes available.

Next Steps and Adjournment

Kristin Rowles said that she would be in touch with members of the existing committees to set schedules and distribute materials regarding the Metro Water District plan update review and some of the Regional Water Plan revisions discussed today.

Council Chair Steve Davis thanked members for attending and the meeting was adjourned

Council Members Attending January 10, 2017 Meeting:

  • Steve Davis, Chair
  • Harry Lange, Vice Chair
  • Gloria Weston-Smart
  • Alan Bell
  • Paul Chappell
  • Matt Windom
  • Jimmy Thompson
  • James Emery
  • Jimmy Knight
  • Ken Penuel
  • Robert York​

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