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IDA, county, Springfield near water pact
EPD encouraging deal that would provide water I-16 development
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The Effingham Industrial Development Authority is drawing closer to providing water for its massive project at I-16 — and it’s a solution that also may help local governments comply with state mandates.

IDA, county and Springfield representatives are close to finalizing a deal that will take Springfield’s wells out of the state Environmental Protection Division’s red zone. The red zone, the area the EPD has limited water withdrawal from the upper Floridan aquifer, runs roughly along Highway 119. Springfield’s two wells are south of the highway, one by just a few hundred yards, and lie in the red zone.

The end result is a bump from 150,000 to 436,000 gallons per day for the county to withdraw.

“The EPD has encouraged us to work to get the well moved 300 yards north of Highway 119,” IDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said.

Said county engineer Steve Liotta: “We discovered we could do this an easier way.”

Springfield’s other well is in the current Effingham Industrial Park. Plans are for that well to be closed and the tank there to be used for fire suppression and as emergency backup for the park. The IDA has offered to help defray the cost of moving the main well north by as much as $1 million.

Under the arrangement, Springfield will transfer water to the county and then to the IDA for its I-16 development in conjunction with DP Partners.

“We’re talking about $1 million for a $400 million project,” Henry said.

The EPD wants local governments to return to 2004 water withdrawal levels. By moving its well a few hundred yards north, Springfield would be able to eliminate all of its water withdrawal in the red zone. It also allows Georgia to comply with a coastal water management plan on saltwater intrusion shared with South Carolina.

“We are saving the state and everybody a lot of grief for $1 million,” Henry said.

County commissioner Hubert Sapp, in whose district the I-16 development lies, said Springfield is looking for land, preferably west of Effingham Hospital or land farther north on Highway 21. The county owns the two desired tracts. Springfield is expected to put in a 16-inch well that will pump 1,700 gallons per minute.

“Everybody was in agreement it would be beneficial for the county and for Springfield,” Sapp said. “The IDA is willing to work with Springfield and help them make that happen.”

“The county, the IDA and Springfield all get what they want,” said IDA member Charles Hinely.

Sapp issued a stern caveat on just how important providing services to the tracts is to the IDA’s deal with DP Partners.

“Without this happening, the development on I-16 goes away,” he said.

A previous agreement would have required additional EPD approval and even the agency’s OK on extending permits past the end of next year. The existing water withdrawal permits from the EPD are set to expire at the end of 2008 and those levels will be replaced by the amount of water withdrawn by permit holders in 2004.

“With this plan, they will no longer have to worry about that,” Liotta said. “These are clean permitting actions. EPD has agreed if we were to give them a plan as to how we will make this happen, so the county can receive a permit for Springfield’s 2004 actual plus our own and Springfield will receive a permit for its justifiable needs.”

The county withdrew 21,000 gallons daily in 2004, “which isn’t enough to serve anything,” Liotta added.

The return to the 2004 levels are designed to force permit holders to seek alternative water sources, such as surface water or the Myocene and lower Floridan aquifers.