Riceboro is getting a $1 million loan for the city’s McIntosh County well project, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority said Tuesday. The city also has been awarded a $1.25 million grant for water infrastructure improvements apparently related to the new well.
The GEFA release says the $1 million loan will finance the drilling of an upper Floridan aquifer well in McIntosh County, the installation of 10,000 feet of "water transmission main," or pipes, and the building of a 1-million gallon elevated water storage tank in unincorporated Liberty County.
Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin could not be reached Tuesday, but earlier said the city’s plan "will benefit citizens in this county and surrounding counties who depend upon us for employment."
Riceboro is having to seek more water outside the county because the city — along with the rest of Liberty County — is in the state Environmental Protection Division’s yellow zone, meaning the EPD isn’t permitting additional withdrawals because of concerns of saltwater intrusion into the aquifer. McIntosh County is in the EPD’s green zone, where the state currently is allowing additional withdrawals.
The GEFA release said Riceboro will pay 1.89 percent interest on the 20-year loan and could see principal forgiveness of $400,000 if all of the loan is used.
Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration announced a $1.25 federal grant to Riceboro for a water and sewer project to "boost water capacity in the town of Riceboro to support the expansion plans of a major manufacturer of water-soluble polymers. According to grantee estimates, the investment is expected to retain 500 jobs, create 100 new jobs, and generate $8 million in private investment."
Though the release did not refer by name to SNF Chemtall, the company is the city’s largest employer and manufacturer water soluble polymers, and Chemtall Vice President David Kaye said the company supports Riceboro in its work to upgrade the water system.
Austin also said last Friday the city’s plan to bolster its water infrastructure is "probably one of the first initiatives of its kind in the Georgia. It responds to the governor’s mandate to develop alternative water sources to mitigate saltwater intrusion."