BOC to consider pipeline today

LAWRENCEVILLE - The final phase of a pipeline that will eventually return 40 million gallons of water to Lake Lanier daily passed the county's water authority Monday and will be heard by county commissioners today.

This section of the pipeline and a diffuser will cost more than $25 million, the final part of a five-phase project that will put a 72-inch pipeline into the lake.

"It's a really complicated project, an amazing project," Deputy Director of Water Resources Ron Peters said. "It's something people build on the coast of the country, not in the middle of the state."

The low bidder was Oscar Renda Contracting, Peters said, a company that does a lot of work in the West. He said the $25.085 million cost was reduced $750,000 from the original bid and included underwater construction and the diffuser itself.

The company should receive permission to proceed with the project in late February, Peters said, and construction should take about 17 months. Treated wastewater should begin to be returned to Lake Lanier in 2009.

Now, treated wastewater from the F. Wayne Hill Plant is discharged into the Chattahoochee River.

Frank Stephens, a program specialist with the county and the former Water Resources director, said Gwinnett withdrew an average of 88 million gallons of water from Lake Lanier each day in 2007. If the pipeline had already been installed, Stephens said, the lake might be higher than its current level of 1,051.27 feet above sea level, 20 feet below its full pool level.

Members of the Gwinnett County Water and Sewerage Authority also received an update on Lake Lanier and the county's drought contingency plan.

Stephens said Gwinnett reduced its water use by 10.5 percent since the end of September, in line with Gov. Sonny Perdue's instructions that counties reduce their water usage by 10 percent in light of the current historic drought.

Stephens said because Gwinnett has conservative water use, he was surprised that the county was able to meet the reduction demands.

Overall, the amount of water used in the county has risen at a slower rate than it should considering the number of residents added each year. Stephens said on average, residents use 116 gallons of water a day. That number is lower than any state's average, he said.

Gwinnett's intake from the lake is at 1,025 feet above sea level, said Jim Scarbrough, the executive technical director of Water Resources. That means residents do not have to worry about being unable to withdraw water from Lake Lanier for some time.

In the meantime, the county has created a conservation plan that goes through June 30. Among other things, the plan allows for rebates up to $200 per household on low-flow toilets for homes built before 1993.

Those rebates are retroactive to any fixtures purchased after Sept. 28 and will be available in the coming weeks, Stephens said.