Groups Challenge Creation of Costly, Harmful and Unnecessary LakeNovember 8th, 2010
<p>Jenny Hoffner, Director, Water Supply, American Rivers, 404-373-3602</p>
Atlanta — On behalf of the Georgia River Network and American Rivers, the Southern Environmental Law Center challenged in federal court the flawed basis for the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) decision to permit a $17 million, 960-acre recreational fishing lake in Grady County, Georgia near the Florida state line. The legal challenge focuses on a flawed study underlying the permit that overestimates the number of people that would use the lake. The challenge also asserts that the project would destroy over 9 miles of streams and could destroy up to 518 acres of valuable wetlands — significantly more than the 129 acres of wetlands estimated by the Corps.
“With so much at risk—millions of dollars in public expenditures and the destruction of hundreds of acres of wetlands and miles of streams—the Corps failed its responsibility to ensure that there is a legitimate need for the proposed project,” said Bill Sapp, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “In failing to do so, the Corps has violated federal law and jeopardized the financial future of Grady County citizens.”
Commissioner Bobby Burns in a Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this year expressed concern when he said that after the reserve fund is exhausted and all the trees on the site have been sold, property owners are going to have to pay a 1.5 mill tax increase to pay off the bonds. Echoing this concern, April Ingle, Executive Director of Georgia River Network, said “Grady County homeowners should know that their property taxes are going to be raised significantly to pay for this lake even if they don’t live near the lake or use it at all.”
“This is the wrong project at the wrong time,” said Jenny Hoffner, Director of Water Supply for American Rivers. “Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on this destructive proposal, the County could focus on reaping more immediate economic and recreational benefits from its existing streams and natural resources. The Ochlockonee River could draw anglers, paddlers and other visitors to the County for less cost.”
When the County originally sought a Corps permit for the lake, it proposed an “amenity” lake for a high-end residential-golf development. The Corps said it could not permit such a lake and the county proceeded with plans for a “fishing lake” instead and commissioned a fishing demand study. Without any meaningful restrictions on development, the Corps approved the permit for the second project, which would allow the County to construct the lake and build its luxury development.
A study of fishing demand used to support the Corps permit contains multiple flaws that inflate the alleged demand for the project. For example, the study assumes that 0-5 year olds would fish at the same rates as adults. Another significant flaw in the study is that it assumes that Florida anglers will fish in Grady County at the same rate as Georgia anglers, which disregards the dampening effect of having to secure a second fishing license.
About Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of 40 legal experts represents more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
About Georgia River Network
Georgia River Network is a statewide organization working to ensure a clean water legacy by engaging and empowering Georgians to protect and restore our rivers from the mountains to the coast. Founded in 1998, Georgia River Network has over 600 members and works with a network of 30+ groups across the state to protect Georgia’s waterways. www.GaRivers.org
About American Rivers
American Rivers is the leading national conservation organization fighting for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores the nation’s rivers and the clean water that sustains people, wildlife and nature. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters, with offices in Washington, DC and nationwide. www.AmericanRivers.org