Monday, October 26, 2009

GEFA Approves Five Water, Sewer Infrastructure Projects Totaling $6.7 Million for Georgia Communities

Governor Sonny Perdue announced October 20 the approval of five environmental infrastructure project loans totaling just over $6.7 million. Two of the projects were fully financed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) at a total of $936,550. The GEFA board of directors approved the commitments to help finance water and sewer infrastructure projects in five communities throughout Georgia.

“Investment in our state’s water and sewer infrastructure stimulates the economy, promotes the stewardship of our natural resources, and helps to meet Georgia’s future water needs,” said Governor Perdue. “The projects approved today will improve water system efficiency and will ensure clean and safe water.”

“The federal water and sewer programs administered by GEFA assist local governments with improving their environmental infrastructure,” said GEFA Executive Director Phil Foil. “Financing water and sewer projects encourages economic growth and the stewardship of our environment.”

Foil expressed appreciation to Governor Perdue, Georgia’s Congressional delegation and the members of the General Assembly for their support. He credited Governor Perdue’s commitment to helping Georgia cities and counties finance infrastructure development as one of the main contributors to GEFA’s success.

“The projects that we agreed to finance today illustrate how GEFA helps communities of all sizes, in all areas of the state,” said Matt Beasley, chairman of the GEFA board of directors and mayor of the city of Hartwell. “From the smallest of communities to the largest, GEFA is investing in communities that are willing to invest in themselves.”

GEFA helps communities prepare for economic growth and development through the provision of low interest loans. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is a federal loan program administered by GEFA for wastewater infrastructure and water pollution abatement projects. Eligible projects include a wide variety of storm water and wastewater collection and treatment projects. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) is a federal loan program administered by GEFA for water infrastructure projects. Eligible projects include public health-related water supply construction.

In February, Congress approved and the President signed the ARRA, which included a substantial investment in the CWSRF and the DWSRF programs. The ARRA also directs the states to reserve 20 percent of the ARRA funding for “…projects to address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements or other environmentally innovative activities.”

Under the ARRA financing terms adopted by the GEFA board of directors, cities or counties that are OneGeorgia-eligible qualify for a 70 percent subsidy. Cities or counties that are not OneGeorgia-eligible qualify for a 40 percent subsidy. Cities or counties with eligible green projects qualify for a 60 percent subsidy. For example, if a OneGeorgia-eligible community applies for a $1 million loan, then 70 percent of the loan will be forgiven, up to a maximum of $700,000, subject to the loan contract provisions. The community will close on a loan of up to$300,000 at a three percent interest rate. OneGeorgia-eligible communities are located outside the state’s metropolitan areas and have a population of 50,000 or less with a poverty rate of ten percent or greater. The unprecedented amounts of subsidy in the ARRA financing terms will help Georgia meet the ARRA’s short-term goals of job creation and economic stimulus.

Georgia local governments expressed a tremendous amount of interest in the ARRA funds. Cities and counties submitted more than 1,600 clean water, drinking water and green projects with total costs exceeding $6 billion. Total available funding for projects through the ARRA is $144 million. Funding is obligated to projects on a first-come-first-served basis.

Below are details of the loans approved:

Eatonton-Putnam County Water and Sewer Authority (WSA)

Financed through the ARRA, Eatonton-Putnam County WSA was approved for a green project through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The loan of $128,620 and a DWSRF subsidy of $192,930 were approved to upgrade commercial and residential water meters to increase meter reading accuracy. The total project cost is $321,550 with GEFA providing the entire amount. Consistent with GEFA’s ARRA financing terms for green projects, 60 percent (up to a maximum of $192,930) of the principal will be forgiven, subject to the loan contract provisions. The Eatonton-Putnam County WSA will pay three percent interest on the loan portion, up to a maximum of $128,620, for 20 years.

City of Hagan

The city of Hagan was approved for a Georgia Fund loan of $110,000 to help finance a new well, pump and pumphouse for the city’s water system. The city will pay 3.81 percent interest rate on the 15-year loan. The total project cost is $220,000 with a grant of $110,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs providing the remainder.

Macon Water Authority

The Macon Water Authority was approved for a Georgia Fund loan of $5,100,348 to help finance new lines in the city’s sanitary sewer system. The Macon Water Authority will pay a 3.81 percent interest rate on the 20-year loan. The total project cost is $5,100,348 with GEFA financing the entire amount.

City of Waleska

Financed through the ARRA, the city of Waleska was approved for a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan of $369,000 and a DWSRF subsidy of $246,000 for the replacement of water mains. The total project cost is $615,000 with GEFA providing the entire amount. Consistent with GEFA’s ARRA financing terms for communities that are not OneGeorgia-eligible, 40 percent (up to a maximum of $246,000) of the principal will be forgiven, subject to the loan contract provisions. The city will pay three percent interest on the loan portion, up to a maximum of $369,000, for 20 years.

City of Walthourville

The city of Walthourville was approved for a Georgia Fund loan of $556,500 for a new well, well house and chemical feed equipment. The city will pay 3.81 percent interest rate on the 20-year loan. The total project cost is $556,500 with GEFA financing the entire amount.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Soggy September floods north Georgia

Heavy rains caused record flooding in north Georgia in mid-September, while other parts of the state experienced and normal to below-normal rainfall.

A large, slow-moving low-pressure system brought extremely humid air into Georgia mid-month. It triggered days of intense rainfall, producing what was estimated to be a 500-year flood around Atlanta, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The highest rain totals estimated by National Weather Service radars were 15 inches to 20 inches in Douglas County and other areas east and west of downtown Atlanta.

Twenty-one counties were declared eligible for federal disaster funds. Preliminary damage estimates were $500 million to $1 billion. Thousands of homes were affected, and 500 were destroyed or significantly damaged.

The flood is considered the worst since 1919, when flood waters almost destroyed West Point in western Georgia.

Parts of four interstates were closed. I-20 remained closed for more than 24 hours as flood waters rose 3 feet over the pavement and inundated Six Flags Over Georgia.

Following the rain, Lake Lanier rose 1.5 feet in 24 hours. Lake Allatoona rose almost 9 feet during the week after. More than 130 dams and many bridges now require stability inspections.

Four water-treatment plants in Atlanta were damaged and dumped raw sewage into the Chattahoochee River. A pipe in a levee near Macon broke and discharged millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Ocmulgee River at the end of the month. Citizens were urged to stay out of the flood water. Some communities issued advisories to boil water.

Ten people were killed, most while driving onto roads covered by moving water. Seven deaths were in Douglas County, where the heaviest rainfall occurred. Additional deaths occurred in Carroll, Chattooga and Gwinnett counties.

The highest monthly total from National Weather Service reporting stations was 10.68 inches in Macon (7.42 inches above normal). The lowest was in Alma at 1.59 inches (1.75 below normal). Atlanta received 8.94 inches (4.85 inches above normal), Athens 9.86 inches (6.33 inches above normal), Columbus 5.30 inches (2.23 inches above normal), Augusta 3.63 inches (.15 inch above normal), Savannah 2.43 inches (2.65 inches below normal) and Brunswick 4.57 inches (1.67 inches below normal).

Forty-eight Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network observers reported 15 inches or more total rainfall for the month. The highest single monthly total was 22.86 inches near Kennesaw in Cobb County. However, two observers in Douglas County reported overflowing rain gauges. An observer in Lilburn in Gwinnett County reported 21.79 inches.

The highest daily rainfall reported by a CoCoRaHS observer exceeded 11 inches in a few hours near Douglasville on Sept. 21, when the rain gauge overflowed. The Carrollton observer nearest the area of maximum rainfall reported 10.64 inches in 24 hours ending that morning.

The Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring site at Dallas in Paulding County reported 16.15 inches for the month, including 5.61 inches on the Sept. 20 and 4.54 inches on Sept. 21.

Numerous daily and monthly rainfall records occurred at National Weather Service cooperative observing stations around the state. Dallas and Carrollton broke 30-year records of heaviest daily rainfall. Atlanta broke a daily maximum rainfall of 3.52 inches on Sept. 19, and Macon broke daily records with 2.32 inches on Sept. 17.

No tornadoes were reported. Scattered reports of strong winds or small hail where reported four days resulting in toppled trees or scattered power outages.

The heavy rains in north Georgia caused extensive damage to nurseries, vineyards and hay fields. Many counties reported rot in cotton and insect infestations. Fieldwork came to a stop in many areas. In other areas, the rain was beneficial to crops and harvesting proceeded at a good pace.

Temperatures across the state were near normal in September except in Augusta where the average temperature was 75.6 degrees (1.6 degrees above normal).

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Governor Announces Water Contingency Task Force

Earlier this week, Governor Sonny Perdue announced the creation of a task force that will help develop contingencies for water consumption as a result of the recent water ruling limiting the access of Lake Lanier for water supply.

Contingency planning is part of the Governor’s four-pronged strategy for addressing the impact of the ruling. The other strategies include congressional action, negotiations and appeal of the decision.

“While I am confident we will be successful in securing the ability to draw water supply from Lake Lanier, we cannot take that for granted and must plan accordingly,” said Governor Perdue. “We will consider conservation measures as well as opportunities to enhance our water supply options.”

The task force will include several dozen leaders from business, government and environmental organizations.

Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John Brock and Tim Lowe of Lowe Engineers have agreed to co-chair the task force, which will meet throughout the fall and present recommendations before the January 2010 legislative session.

“We applaud Governor Perdue for taking this action and convening this water task force to address conservation and water supply,” Brock said. “Water is the most pressing issue facing Metro Atlanta and Georgia today. The business community stands ready to support this effort and lead, where necessary, to ensure that our quality of life and economy are sustainable for the long term.”

“We are honored to assist Governor Perdue in this important endeavor and are confident that this task force will be able to identify a number of sound recommendations to meet this critical challenge,” Lowe added.

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