County issues answer in suit over lake permit

Grady County is now officially a party to a law suit filed by Georgia River Network and American Rivers against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
An answer to the suit alleging the Corps should not have issued a 404 permit to Grady County to construct the 960-acre Tired Creek lake was filed by the Corps on Jan. 14, and Grady County’s answer and motion to intervene were filed Jan. 20.
The Grady County Board of Commissioners contracted with Athens attorney Edward Tolley to represent the county in the suit late last year.
With Tolley’s motion to intervene, Grady County is now a defendant in the law suit and will have the opportunity to argue for and defend its lake permit.
Grady County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley is also in the process of making application to the United States District Court’s Savannah Division to join Tolley as counsel of record in the matter.
“The answer filed by both the Corps and by Grady County certainly do not provide the entire defense in this legal action. They are simply the first pleadings required in order for us to begin to protect our interests in this legal action,” the county attorney said Friday.
“We are confident in the validity of the Corps’ actions and our permit to construct a lake. We look forward to the opportunity to present our position to the court, but are not in a position to comment more specifically at this time on this pending litigation,” Cauley added.
The county attorney expects the court to rule in short order on the county’s motion to intervene and to add him as a counsel of record, but he cannot predict a time line for a hearing in the matter.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit for the construction of the 960-acre fishing lake on May 28, 2010.
Then, on Nov. 5, 2010, a law suit was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Georgia River Network and American Rivers alleging the Corps used flawed studies that overestimate the number of people who would use the proposed fishing lake. The environmental groups also claim the project would destroy over nine miles of streams and up to 518 acres of wetlands.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated the wetlands impacted by the Tired Creek project at just over 129 acres.
In November, the board of commissioners closed on a $15 million bond issue to fund the construction of the lake and to date has encumbered approximately $4.5 million of that total.

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