Rebuffing lawsuit threats made in October by Barrow County Board of Commissioners Chairman Doug Garrison, Jackson County said last week it intends to pursue its litigation against the Upper Oconee Basin Authority.
Jackson County filed suit in October against the regional water authority saying it had miscalculated the actual amount of water in the Bear Creek Reservoir, a situation that was allowing Athens Clarke County to draw more than its fair share from the facility. Jackson, Barrow, Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties make up the authority and co-own the reservoir and related facilities.
Speaking on behalf of Barrow County, Garrison sent a letter in October to Jackson County BOC chairwoman Pat Bell threatening to sue if Jackson County was successful in its litigation. Garrison said that Barrow County had made certain plans and obligations based on the earlier water yield number and that if Jackson County won its lawsuit, those obligations would be in danger.
Last week, attorney Mike Bowers, who represents Jackson County in the litigation, responded to Garrison’s letter, saying Jackson intends to proceed with its suit. Bowers also said that if Jackson County won, Barrow would not have legal standing to counter sue.
“I am not aware of any cause of action that would allow you to sue Jackson County,” Bowers wrote. “I am not aware of how Jackson County would be liable if a court ruled, based on Georgia law and the provisions of the Intergovernmental Agreement, that UOBWA is required to re-calculate the Established Yield…”
Bowers said that Barrow and Jackson counties both have a common interest in seeing that the reservoir’s water capacity is calculated correctly.
“Both Jackson and Barrow Counties face similar future problems that require action now or the residents and businesses in our counties are certain to face hardships that are avoidable if we act responsibly now,” Bowers said in his response to Garrison’s letter.
Jackson County’s litigation argues that the authority miscalculated the real amount of water available in the reservoir and that the mistake allows Athens-Clarke to withdraw much more water than its fair share. Barrow and Oconee counties voted to stand with Athens-Clarke in the dispute.