Monday, March 18, 2019

Extension Of Permit For Apalachee River Intake, Detailed Plans For Bishop Bypass On Meeting Agendas For Tuesday

***University Remains Opposed To Bypass***

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted a 15-year extension to the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority for its permit to build an intake facility on the Apalachee River for its Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir.

The extension is contingent on approval of related permits issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and the Regional Reservoir Management Board and the Water and Sewer Authority will meet at 1 p.m tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Historic Courthouse in Monroe to discuss these permits.

The meeting is one of two tomorrow of interest to citizens in Oconee County, particularly those living east and west of Bishop.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will hold an open house 5 to 7 p.m. at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, to allow citizens to comment on its plans for widening U.S. 441 from the Madison Bypass to the Watkinsville Bypass.

Included is a two-lane truck bypass of Bishop that abuts the University of Georgia Equestrian facility on Astondale Road

The University opposes the bypass route, saying it possible it may have to abandon the facility if the bypass is constructed.

Corps Permit Extension

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority a letter on Feb. 25 indicating that it would extend its permit to build an intake facility to withdraw water from the Apalachee River from 2019 to Feb. 28, 2034.

The letter lists as a condition that the Authority must comply with any requirements of the Permit to Withdraw, Divert Or Impound Surface Water once it is issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

In a letter of Jan. 31, 2019, the Georgia EPD informed the Water and Sewer Authority that its renewal application for its Surface Water Withdrawal Permit both for Hard Labor Creek and for the Apalachee River were pending.

The EPD letter listed 83 comments that need to be addressed before those permits can be extended.

Included are 12 comments about the Justification of Needs section of the renewal application.

The letter indicates that the data provided do "not justify the need for the supplemental water from the proposed Apalachee River pump station until after 2050.”

The letter says the Authority should “provide data, including all sources and assumption, to support the need for the water to be provided by the proposed Apalachee River pump station.”

Resubmittal Next Month

The agenda indicates that Precision Planning Inc. of Monroe, consultant to the Water and Sewer Authority, is “addressing Georgia EPD comments, and providing additional documentation as requested.

“Resubmittal anticipated in early April 2019, following completion of the updated yield analysis,” the agenda states.

The Water and Sewer Authority purchased land for its intake facility on the Apalachee River just upstream from High Shoals at its meeting on Oct. 31.

The Water and Sewer Authority and the advisory Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board usually hold joint meetings, as will be the case tomorrow. Oconee County, a partner in the reservoir project, is represented on the Management Board.

GDOT Meeting Format

The format of the Georgia Department of Transportation Open House tomorrow evening does not include a presentation by GDOT or its consultants, according to Bruce Anderson, project manager for the U.S. 441 widening.

Detailed Plans for Bishop Bypass (Click To Enlarge)

Instead, interested citizens will be able to view project layouts on display in the room.

“Citizens can view the layouts and write comments regarding the layout on comments cards or leave a statement with the court reporter that will be in the room,” Anderson told me in an email message this morning.

The displays will show more detail than was shown on earlier maps of the proposed widening of U.S. 441 and on the two-lane truck bypass of Bishop.

The bypass begins with a roundabout at Astondale Road on the south side of Bishop and continues to a roundabout at the intersection of SR 186 and the existing U.S. 441.

Equestrian Facility

Greg McGarity, director of Athletics at the University of Georgia, sent a letter to Jamie Boswell, Congressional District 10 representative to the Georgia Transportation Board, on July 23, 2018, noting concerns about the proposed truck-route bypass of Bishop.

“In particular, we are concerned about the noise stemming from construction of the bypass and the traffic associated with the completed project, which pose a potential threat to the safety of both UGA and visiting student-athletes as well as animals at the facility,” McGarity wrote.

McGarity acknowledged that GDOT has proposed noise abatement components to the plans, but he said that even with those plans, the construction “may result in an unsuitable environment because of the extremely close proximity of this proposed roadway to our equestrian facility.”

McGarity’s letter was given to me by Laurel Whitmire, whose property will be negatively impacted by the bypass.

J. Griffin Doyle, vice president for Government Relations at the University of Georgia, confirmed in a FaceTime conversation this afternoon that the University has not changed its opposition to the bypass as planned since that letter from July of last year.

Facility Improvements

McGarity’s letter from July is a follow-up to one he wrote in February of 2018, raising the same concerns.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia purchased the 65.6 acres on the east side of Bishop for the equestrian facility in 2009, according to county tax records.

Prior to 2009, the equestrian facility was at the intersection of South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road in Athens-Clarke County.

The University of Georgia does have plans to upgrade the Equestrian Facility, Doyle told me in an email message in February.

A 7,000 to 8,000 square foot equestrian clubhouse is to be built this year, according to those plans.

Included is to be a locker room with 70 lockers, a meeting room that seats 72, team showers, dressing area and restrooms.


carolyn pritchett said...

There is the displacement of two homes and the trucking company. the 3.1 million dollar complex is currently being constructed. I can't believe that DOT ignores all of that. We will miss the equestrian center if they leave, the two homes that are to be displaced, and the trucking company.....the roundabout at 441/186 will be so confusing. There will be those 4 roads, union church road, and refueling at the golden pantry-- all at the same place. The variety of the traffic is just amazing - ga. power carrying long poles, trucks, motorhomes pulling vehicles, motorcycles, bikes, etc., etc., etc. -- with tags being seen from as far as Alaska and Canada.

Laurel Whitmire said...

First, I think it is totally unacceptable for GDOT to send a team of engineers to answer public questions when they are 1) not informed or 2) came in with the intent to deceive. One example is that several engineers told citizens that the NEW TRUCK ROUTE WOULD BE MANDATORY. This is not true, it's voluntary and GDOT knows this. I've asked the Oconee Enterprise to point this out in the next edition, because it's kind of an important point, but I'm not sure they will do so.

Secondly, when GDOT told UGA last year that they would be working on noise studies and designing sound barriers, that was not true either. According to them last night, the State cannot do the studies OR erect noise abatement barriers in a project like this. Yes, they plan to create a visual barrier, but this is not a noise barrier. Look for UGA to leave (this is my opinion, not a fact).

It was brought up that the requirement for trucks to slow for roundabouts and then accelerate, twice, will contribute to air pollution. We've all see the black smoke emitted by trucks as they accelerate. This may be a shorter plan, but it's certainly not the most environmentally friendly.

Others people I spoke with asked "what's the alternative?" There are all kinds of alternatives on the east and west of town. It's not something I could ever dig into, that really is a job for GDOT. I will never do to someone else what has been done to me. Which is that I was invited to a BBQ to discuss the road and next to each place setting was a print out of MY PROPERTY with a ROAD on it. This was handed to the attending GDOT Officials (thank you Positively Oconee, That was really neighborly of know who you are). I heard other citizens of Bishop crowing last night, patting someone on the back saying "good job, just keep it off of my farm." I'd like to add her farm is huge and consists primarily of wooded acreage. She clearly prefers to watch someone lose their family home rather than sacrifice one acre of wooded land. There are so many kind, wonderful, supportive people in Bishop and I'm blessed to have met many of them. And then there are people like the ones I've just mentioned.

All said, it was a packed house last night and that is a good thing. It would be nice to think that GDOT will listen to the community rather than ram through a plan they know is bad just because someone special has asked for it.

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants to respond to this! No guts.