March 07, 2023

Meeting Summary: Middle Ocmulgee Regional Council March 14, 2023

To:         Middle Ocmulgee (MOC) Regional Water Planning Council


From:    Veronica Craw, GA EPD, MOC Liaison

              Paula Feldman, Freese and Nichols

              Olivia Snyder, Freese and Nichols


Subject: Draft Meeting Summary

Date: March 14, 2023

Welcome and Introductions

Middle Ocmulgee Chairman, Elmo Richardson, welcomed the group and called the meeting to order at 10:00 AM. Everyone in attendance introduced themselves.

Council Business

  • Council members approved the November 29, 2022 meeting minutes.
  • Council members approved the March 14, 2023 meeting agenda.

Regional Water Planning Update

(Veronica Craw, GA EPD)

  • Regional Planning Update
    • This council is on schedule to meet the June 2023 regional water plan update deadline.
    • The Draft Plan will be posted for public comment from March 31-May 14th, 2023.
    • If needed, the council will revise the Draft Plan based on public comment and submit the Final Plan to EPD by early June 2023.
    • EPD will adopt the Final Plan by June 30, 2023 if consistent with State Water Plan, Rules, and Guidance.
  • Discussion Followed (paraphrased for brevity):
    • Elmo Richardson: Have there been any updates on appointments?
    • Veronica Craw: No, there are not any updates on appointments at this time.
    • John Bembry: We may hear news regarding the Pulaski appointment within the next month.
    • John Bembry: How is public comment advertised?
    • Clete Barton: It will go on the EPD website, similar to any other rule change.
    • John Bembry: Could we advertise it in a local paper such as the Hawkinsville Dispatch or the Houston County Journal?
    • Veronica Craw: EPD updated the rules regarding public notices to transition to entirely electronic, but will look into this.
    • Tony Rojas: Has the Asset Management rule passed?
    • Clete Barton: It is going to the board for approval in April 2023. This is the state application of the federal law.
    • Tony Rojas: EPD could consider certified compliance for asset management (similar to compliance for water loss audits), since asset management is so nebulous.
    • Paula Feldman: GAWP has developed a guidance document for asset management for small systems.
  • Water Quality Trading Guidance Document
    • The guidance document was finalized in February 2023.
    • It is intended to provide additional tools and framework for entities that discharge into water bodies with limited assimilative capacity, particularly related to nutrients.
    • The document is explicitly relevant to Coosa North Georgia, Middle Ocmulgee, and Savannah-Upper Ogeechee regions.
    • The document is built on Seed Grant and 319(h) grant projects.
    • The document is published on EPD’s website.
    • It is not intended to generate trading in Georgia, but to provide a guidance framework so that trading can happen if needed.
      • Trading could involve trades between two-point sources or between a point source and a non-point source.
  • Discussion Followed (paraphrased for brevity):
    • Elmo Richardson: Is trading limited to each basin?
    • Veronica Craw: Yes, trades can only occur between entities in the same basin.


Sections 3 and 5 Review

(Paula Feldman, FNI)

  • Planning Process Overview
    • About this time last year, the council reviewed their vision and goals for the Plan and made updates as needed.
    • Today, the focus is on Section 3 (Current Conditions and Resource Assessments) and Section 5 (Future Conditions and Resource Assessments). The goal is to approve these sections at this meeting.
    • Additionally, a second review of Section 6 will be conducted with a goal of approving this section.
    • Section 6 and 7 will be consolidated to remove redundancy.
    • The public review period is from March 31-May 14, 2023.
      • Following public review, the consulting team will review comments and send it to council for their review
      • EPD will review the Final Plan and it will be adopted in late June 2023.
  • Section 3 Updates
    • The summary data and sources in Section 3.0 were updated.
    • Section 3.1 (Major Water Use in Region) was updated to use the latest data (2015) compiled from USGS and EPD.
    • Section 3.2 (Resource Assessments) was updated to replace “gap” term with “challenge” from the BEAM surface water assessment. A detailed technical memorandum was provided by Dr. Wei Zheng and the information from the memorandum was incorporated into Section 3.2.
    • Section 3.2.1 (Surface Water Quality) was updated with new dissolved oxygen results, which include more modeled stream segments. Additionally, updated nutrient modeling language and modeling results for Lake Jackson were incorporated.
      • There are no stream segments that are at or exceeding assimilative capacity in the Ocmulgee Basin. There are a few segments that are at or exceeding assimilative capacity in the Oconee Basin.
    • 3.2.2 (Surface Water Availability) was updated to include the results, figures, and methodology from the BEAM model simulation. This simulation compares 80 years of historical flow conditions to water demands and operations from 2010-2018 (baseline scenario) and 2011 (baseline drought scenario).
    • 3.2.3 (Groundwater Quantity) was not updated with new modeling results, as there were no changes to the 2010 models.
    • 3.3.1 (Water Use Classifications) was updated to incorporate the new number of impaired streams and lakes and their length and area. The map in this section was also updated.
    • 3.3.2 (Monitored and Impaired Waters) was updated to reflect an increase in number of streams assessed and a 1% increase in length of impaired streams. The changes to the 303(d) list are documented in this section. The map was also updated.
    • 3.3.3 (Conservation Aeras) was updated to reflect the decreased acreage of protected land managed for conservation purposes and the updated list of rare, threatened, and endangered aquatic species.
  • Discussion Followed (paraphrased for brevity):
    • John Bembry: Were the dissolved oxygen results based on spot checks, or does the modeling consider an extended period of time?
    • Paula Feldman: Yes, the modeling considers an extended period to account for seasonal changes.
    • John Bembry: There is a deficiency in the groundwater modeling in the Upper Floridan aquifer. When will additional monitoring occur?
    • John Bembry: Is the energy production at Plant Scherer going to continue as coal-powered indefinitely?
    • Paula Feldman: It is going to transition from coal-powered energy production and will be in service until 2040. The energy water consumption is included in the projections.
    • Tony Rojas: It would be beneficial to show percentages in Table 3-1.
    • Paula Feldman: Percentages will be added to Table 3-1 as a separate row.
    • John Bembry: Does the assimilative capacity relate to nutrient trading?
    • Veronica Craw: The basis for nutrient trading is to provide relief to dischargers.
    • John Bembry: Does the Plan for the region located upstream of Middle Ocmulgee involve Middle Ocmulgee accepting more of their wastewater?
    • Veronica Craw: Trading would only occur within each basin and there are no plans for trading in this region yet. Trading allows there to be no net impact on the water body.
    • Tony Rojas: What if the full assimilative capacity of the river is not yet being used?
    • Veronica Craw: EPD assumes the full permitted capacity that the facility is authorized to discharge, as a conservative estimate.
    • Paula Feldman: Future land use is considered in the future assimilative capacity modeling.
    • Tony Rojas: The City of Monticello had water and wastewater challenges according to the BEAM results. How would they alleviate those challenges?
    • Veronica Craw: EPD will discuss the specific challenges with the entities and determine a path forward to alleviate the issue.
    • John Bembry: City of Hawkinsville also experienced challenges according to the BEAM results. Is there concern regarding the permit limits in Pulaski County?
    • Veronica Craw: Permit limits are already set, and City of Hawkinsville did not experience substantial challenges (greater than 10% of modeled days) so the BEAM results will not affect this for Pulaski County.
    • Tony Rojas: What is the nature of the challenges for Perry and Perdue?
    • John Bembry: They are discharging into a creek.
    • Tony Rojas pointed out that it is an odd coincidence that two of the aquifers have the same capacity. Freese and Nichols will confirm these numbers are correct.
    • Tony Rojas: Does the Floridan aquifer also include the eastern coastal plane, and therefore, is salt water intrusion relevant?
    • Elmo Richardson: Salt water intrusion is not as bad as it once was.
    • Paula Feldman: Freese and Nichols can add a map in this section to help clarify the aquifer locations.
    • John Bembry: Why did the number of endangered/threatened species increase from four to nine?
    • Olivia Snyder: The increase is due to more species being added to the state endangered and threatened list. It is not due to the discovery of new species.
    • John Bembry: What does habitat restoration entail?
    • Paul McDaniel: This depends on the focus species and can vary significantly.
  • Section 5 Updates
    • The summary data and sources in Section 5.0 were updated.
    • Section 5.1 (Groundwater Availability Comparisons) underwent significant restructuring. The sustainable yield result and demand comparison were updated, as well as the map in this section.
      • There is a shift shown in the future for the Floridan aquifer compared to the current conditions. EPD is aware that more modeling needs to be conducted.
      • Veronica provided the update that ARPA funding has been received and the EPD will be conducting modeling on the Floridan and Claiborne aquifers. The modeling will potentially be complete by the next Plan update.
    • Section 5.2 (Surface Water Availability Comparisons) was updated with new results, figures, and methodology based on the BEAM simulations, which compares 80 years of historical flow conditions to 2060 forecasted water demands and operations.
    • Section 5.3 (Surface Water Quality Comparisons) reflects updated dissolved oxygen results showing more modeled stream segments. There are no updates to the nutrient modeling.
    • Section 5.4 (Future Capacity Comparisons) now includes the updated municipal water comparison table (previously in Section 5.2). Additionally, the municipal wastewater flow table and the agriculture table were both updated.
    • Section 5.5 (Summary of Potential Water Resource Challenges) was updated based on the previous sections, and now includes surface water modeling of wastewater assimilation challenges which was previously not included.
  • Discussion Followed (paraphrased for brevity):
    • Tony Rojas: When did EPD create the colored groundwater zones?
    • Veronica Craw: These were established in June 2006 as part of the Coastal GA Water and Wastewater Permitting Plan for Managing Saltwater Intrusion.
    • Tony Rojas: What is EPD’s plan for managing issues with the Floridan aquifer in the future for groundwater withdrawals?
    • Paula Feldman: Christine Voudy specified that localized site-specific studies will be helpful in determining the specific areas within the aquifer that are experiencing issues with groundwater availability.
    • John Bembry: Issues with groundwater availability could become a concern with political and social implications in the future due to the increased cost of irrigated crop land.
    • Tony Rojas confirmed that Table 5-1 is highlighting the gap in the permit and the need.
    • Tony Rojas: Macon-Bibb County has high potential to serve industry. Though their growth in population from now till 2060 is not significant, they are discussing upgrading Rocky Creek WTP. This is due to industry growth. 
    • Tony Rojas: Houston County’s growth is a concern due to the lack of sanitary sewer infrastructure. The WWTP’s in Warner Robins and Perry are not designed to accept septage.
  • The Council approved Sections 3 and 5 with the updates from today’s discussion incorporated.

Management Practices Update

(Paula Feldman, FNI)

  • Management practices build on the gap analysis and vision/goals.
  • These management practices were reviewed and discussed in the November 29th meeting.
  • They will be reviewed once more today in light of the Section 3 and 5 updates discussed.
  • There are 5 management practice categories, while there were previously for. The Administrative category was added after the November 29th discussion.
  • The specific points of discussion are highlighted below. The full detailed description of each management practice can be found in the powerpoint presentation from this meeting. 
  • Water Demand Management Practices
    • WD-1: Implement and Encourage Water Conservation Practices
    • “Implement water conservation rate structures.”
      • Tony Rojas: Implementing conservation rate structures may not be the right decision for all utilities.
      • Paula Feldman: How about changing the wording to “consider” rather than “implement?”
      • Council agrees with this wording change.
  • Water Supply Management Practices
    • WS-1: Investigate Impacts of Metro Atlanta Area Discharges – no changes.
    • WS-2: Evaluate New and Existing Surface Water Reservoir Storages
    • “Expand Existing Reservoirs (Including those managed by NRCS).
      • John Bembry: Does NRCS own or manage any reservoirs?
      • Clete Barton: Some or all reservoirs are owned and operated by counties and sponsored by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, but were created by NRCS.
      • Council agreed to change the wording to say something other than “managed.”
    • WS-3: Investigate New Groundwater Sources – no changes.
    • WS-4: Evaluate System Interconnections for Water Supply – no changes.
      • John Bembry: Is there any incentive or grant money to incentivize consolidation of water systems, for example City of Hawkinsville and Hartford Water Authority?
      • Paula Feldman: This would likely be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for funding. It would be a local decision to apply for funding.
    • WS-5: Expand Water Treatment Capacity – no changes.
    • “Monitor emerging contaminants and consider future treatment technologies.”
      • John Bembry: Is there monitoring in Georgia for microplastics?
      • Veronica Craw:  No, they are not monitored at the state level due to the difficulty of refining the sampling methods. [PF7] Through 319(h) funding (federal), EPD is contemplating expanding the Adopt-a-Stream program to include microplastics. This would be a state-wide initiative.
      • John Bembry: Could this information be added to the Plan?
      • Paula Feldman: The idea was to keep this point broad due to the emerging nature of contaminant and related research.
    • WS-6: Promote and Evaluate Beneficial Reuse – no changes.
  • Wastewater Management Practices
    • WW-1: Upgrade and Construct Wastewater Treatment Facilities – no changes.
    • “Provide advanced treatment as identified by local master plans.”
      • Tony Rojas: What does advanced treatment entail?
      • Paula Feldman: Anything beyond secondary treatment, for example, nitrogren removal.
    • WW-2: Mitigate Impact of On-Site Septic Management System (OSSMS)
    • “Consider future service area of centralized wastewater collection and treatment services based on future population or land use density as part of local master planning.”
      • Tony Rojas: A good method to practice when an area is growing and discussions with developers are taking place is to design new subdivisions so that they flow to centralized treatment. This can be done by looking at a watershed and designing the development to allow gravity flow and avoid leap frogging. This could be a good solution for Houston County.
      • Paula Feldman: Do you all want to add something about receiving septage?
      • Tony Rojas: Yes, let’s add a point about receiving septage to this one.
      • Elmo Richardson: Some municipalities will still not accept septage at wastewater treatment facilities directly.
    • WW-3: Evaluate Constructed Wetlands (Beneficial Reuse) – no changes.
  • Water Quality Management Practices:
    • WQ-1: Adopt Ordinances and/or Incentive Programs to Protect Sensitive Land – no changes.
    • “Local governments may consider adopting ordinances or incentive programs for developers to protect or conserve environmentally sensitive lands and minimize impacts of development. The programs may include and combination of the following based on local needs or issues:
      • Protection of areas with steep slopes (minimize development in these areas or mitigate the effects of sediment and erosion.”
      • John Bembry: Does EPD currently enforce mandates to prevent dirt road erosion?
      • Veronica Craw: The rehabilitation of dirt roads is eligible for grant funding through EPD for re-grading and re-stabilization. These roads cannot be paved because then they would qualify as impervious surfaces.
    • WQ-2: Establish a Stormwater Utility to Ensure Funding – no changes.
      • “Reduction of non-point source pollution.”
      • Mike Bilderback: Do stormwater pollutants just refer to turbidity?
      • Veronica Craw: This also includes fats, oil, and greases, nutrients, and more.
    • WQ-3: Implement Watershed Improvement Projects – no changes.
    • WQ-4: Implement Stormwater Standards for Rural Areas and Forest and Dirt Roads
    • “Expand education and enforcement of the measures outlined in Georgia Forestry Commission BMP manual.”
      • Paul McDaniel: The Georgia Forestry Commission does not have any enforcement power. The word “enforcement” could be changed to “compliance.”
    • WQ-5: Develop/implement Watershed Assessment/Protection Plan Measures
    • “Local governments may consider the following programs to address non-point source pollution and stormwater management issues:
      • John Bembry: Transfer of development rights is related to conservation easements. We should make this more specific to clarify. Could we add at the end “to encourage utilization of conservation easements with limitation of developer rights?”
      • Council agreed to this wording change.
      • Mike Bilderback: Lot size requirements/septic setbacks refer to inside of a subdivision. We should require septic tank inspection and state approval for new subdivisions or transfer of deeds. This could go a long way with mitigating fecal coliform issues, specifically in City of Forsyth.
      • Veronica Craw: Some coastal communities have adopted this exact requirement for transfer of ownership.
    • WQ-6: Consider Water Quality Trading – no changes.
      • Tony Rojas: Should we add something about the EPD rules around trading now that they are published?
      • Veronica Craw: The published information on trading is a guidance document, not a rule.
    • WQ-7: Develop Commercial/Industrial Pollution Prevention Programs – no changes.
  • Administrative Management Practices (new category)
    • AM-1: Promote Full-Cost System Accounting
      • Tony Rojas: Could we combine this with AM-6?
      • Council agreed with this change.
    • AM-2: Develop and Update Local Utility Master Plans – no change.
    • AM-3: Promote Coordinated Environmental Planning – no change.
    • AM-4: Develop Regional Educational Materials for Localized Implementation and Outreach – no change.
    • AM-5: Develop and Update Biosolids Management Plans (new practice) – no change.
    • AM-6: Develop and Update Asset Management Plans (new practice) – combine with AM-1 (see discussion above).
  • Elmo Richardson moved to approve the Management Practices. Motion carried with the assumption that the recommendations from today’s discussion will be incorporated.


  • No public comments.
  • Ron Shipman and the Macon Water Authority were thanked for hosting the meeting and providing lunch to the group.

Next Steps and Wrap Up

Next council meeting will be held in May 2023.


Council Members Present:

  1. Elmo Richardson, Chairman
  2. Mike Bilderback
  3. John Bembry
  4. Barry Peters
  5. Tony Rojas


Partners & Visitors

  1. Mike Hopkins, Newton County Water & Sewer Authority
  2. Jenna Mashburn, Pulaski County
  3. Paul McDaniel, GA Forestry Commission
  4. Morgan Grizzle, UGA Extension


GA Environmental Protection Division

  1. Veronica Craw, MOC Council Liaison & EPD Nonpoint Source Program Manager
  2. Clete Barton, GA EPD Program Manager


Freese and Nichols, Inc. (Planning Contractors)

  1. Paula Feldman, Council Lead
  2. Olivia Snyder, Council Support



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