For more than a year, citizens throughout the region have anxiously awaited the development of the Port Royal water park complex in Jasper.
Since its splashy announcement celebration May of 2013, the project has captured the attention of surrounding governments and the long term unemployed.
The people of Pickens (although the project is not officially a county project) are holding their collective breath before taking the plunge on the largest family-style development in the area.
FYN sat down with Gerry Nechteval last Friday to talk about the project. When the issue of a lack of permits was addressed, Nechteval old FYN that the permits should have been sought by the engineer responsible for the project.
As of ‘press time’ (1:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon) no phone calls or e-mails had been returned by Michael Ross, of Ross Engineering, Port Royal’s lead consulting engineer.
Regional Economic Development Planning Component
The project’s impact will ‘spill’ well beyond the city of Jasper, requiring the coordination of several regional and state entities.
The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission serves as a ‘one stop shop’ for counties planning large scale projects with an anticipated regional impact.
The commission orchestrates much of the state level permitting processes for counties and can be a tremendous asset in pushing a project forward.
FYN spoke with Julie Meadows, Community and Economic Development Manager for the commission. Meadows told FYN that economic developers within the region are excited about the project, but that paperwork for a “Development of Regional Impact” had not been filed.
FYN contacted the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and learned that a pre- application for Georgia Tourism Act funds had been filed. DCA reviewed the report and invited a final proposal on the project but, as of yesterday, (August 12th) one had not been received.
Jasper’s mayor, John Weaver, was quoted in a Bigcanoe.com article authored by Wayne Tidwell that the project would need between 90,000 and 120,000 gallons of water each day.
The mayor (who did not contact FYN following phone and e-mail messages made by the network 24 hours before ‘press time’) told Tidwell that 3 water towers located in Pickens County could provide approximately 150,000 gallons of stored capacity for the project.
Although the project will rely on some recycling of water, and the water needed to fill the area- in order to provide an environment meant to replicate a seaside port- will only need evaporation replacement water, the need for additional water is obvious.
The City of Jasper can create intergovernmental agreements to obtain or expand water purchases but, as of press time, no agreements have been verified by FYN.
While the project could rely on water from surrounding governments, a permit would still be required from EPD.
FYN contacted the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in order to obtain copies of Port Royal’s water withdrawal permits.
EPD permitting manager Philip White told FYN that no permits were filed for either ground or surface water withdrawal extensions for the project. He sent FYN a current copy of the City of Jasper’s withdrawal permit.
The permit allows one million gallons to be withdrawn each day.
In an attempt to identify possible alternatives for the project’s water, FYN contacted Craig Oliver of the Army Corps of Engineers about a possible withdrawal involving Carters Lake. Oliver told FYN he had never been contacted by anyone regarding the project.
Surrounding local governments are preparing for an increase in traffic flow to the project.
At last Tuesday’s Blue Ridge City Council meeting, council members formed a committee tasked to quickly obtain highway signage diverting travelers visiting the Port Royal project to the downtown area.
FYN contacted the state Department of Transportation (GDOT) in order to verify that an Access Management Permit had been obtained.
As of Tuesday, August 12th, no one representing the project had applied for a permit.
A media piece authored by Nechvatal estimates the daily average vehicle count on 515 to be 21,060 below West Church Street and 16,730 north of the intersection of West Church Street and 515.
A GDOT spokesperson told FYN that, regardless of the traffic flow, GDOT needs to estimate both ‘speed and capacity.’
You can watch Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones discuss the project on FYN’s “O’Dell Report” segment here:
The project, which includes a 400 bed hotel, convention center, restaurants, and both an indoor and outdoor water park, will, according to project facilitator and Pickens County Economic Development Director Gary Nechvatal, provide between 450 and 500 long term jobs.
But with a groundbreaking celebration less than three months away, (October 4-during the marble festival) many of the required permits and intergovernmental agreements have not been secured, or even applied for.
Soil testing Permits
Last week, Gerry Nechvatal made a brief reference to a failed soil test on the project site during a Jasper City Council meeting.
Nechvatal told FYN last week that the soil test result had to do with rocks typical to the area and that he did not foresee the initial testing as a major project deterrent.
FYN then had preliminary discussions with development experts who agreed with Nechvatal’s statement. While rocks might make the project difficult (and possibly more expensive) it is not a project ‘deal breaker.’
You can read more about the Port Royal project here: