“This moment has been a long time coming,” said Lindy Farmer, general manager of the Henry County Water & Sewerage Authority (HCWSA), as he summed up the long process that led to the recent closing of the gate to the main dam to the Tussahaw Reservoir. He spoke to a gathering of HCWSA board members, Henry County commissioners and local community and civic leaders at a ceremony this week, marking the monumental occasion in the history of the Authority and the community.
Each guest at the event took turns rotating the large crank that closed the gate, just as each had played a part in bringing the project to fruition. Now the process of securing the much needed water resources for Henry County continues, as the 1,477-ac reservoir slowly fills according to rainfall amounts and permitted flow of Tussahaw Creek. The new reservoir should meet the drinking water demands of Henry County through the next 10 years and beyond.
“This is one of the most important moments in the history of this county,” added Farmer. “It would never have been possible without the hard work, dedication and patience of so many people who stayed the course, overcame the obstacles and made it a reality.”
The challenge to build the Tussahaw Reservoir dates back to the 1970s, when officials from the HCWSA identified two locations for possible reservoirs – one on the southwestern side of the county on the Towaliga River and the other on the current Tussahaw site. Because of growth patterns in the area and its close proximity to I-75, the Authority constructed and expanded the Towaliga Reservoir first. However, in the early 1990s, the HCWSA saw the need for another reservoir to meet the increased drinking water demands of its growing community, and as a result of this foresight, the Authority broke ground on the Tussahaw project in 2003.
“The ground on which we’re standing was once in Butts County,” explained Ken Phillips, chairman of the HCWSA board, during the gate closing ceremony. “But our board of commissioners and our attorneys did a wonderful job of securing and preserving this land, to pave the way for this beautiful property to serve the needs of the residents of this community for a long time.”
The reservoir will serve not only the drinking water needs of local residents, but their recreational interests as well. The public will have access to fishing, walking along nature trails, enjoying an educational facility and more, as a result of the future plans for community use at the reservoir site after it opens.
Consulting engineers who have provided oversight of reservoir construction are asking for continued patience from the Authority, however, even as the gate to the main dam closes. It will take between six to 12 months before the lake will reach a level where withdrawal will be possible for drinking water production. In addition, environmental regulations and reservoir permits limit the rate in which water filling the reservoir can rise, to ensure that the environment, especially that downstream, is not impacted negatively in the process.
As the Tussahaw Reservoir begins to fill with raw water as a result of the gate to the main dam closing, the Authority continues its work to finish construction on the adjoining Tussahaw Water Production Plant, tentatively set for completion next spring. The Tussahaw Plant will provide 13 million gal of drinking water per day (MGD) for the residents and businesses of Henry County, and it has been designed with the potential to expand that capacity to 26 MGD, if necessary, to accommodate the increased drinking water demands of additional HCWSA customers in the future.