Press Release | November 8, 2010

Groups Challenge Creation of Costly, Harmful and Unnecessary Lake

On behalf of the Georgia River Network and American Rivers, the Southern Environmental Law Center has challenged in federal court the flawed basis for the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to permit a $17 million, 960-acre recreational fishing lake in Grady County, Georgia near the Florida state line.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday, 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 nine 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.

>>Click here for a PDF of the complaint.

“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 “one and a half mills” 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 Grady 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 children up to age five 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 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.

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.

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Press Contacts

Bill Sapp

Senior Attorney specializing in wetlands and coastal issues

Phone: 404-521-9900