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Corps gives green light to begin work on Tired Creek dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given Grady County the green light to proceed with the harvesting of timber and to begin construction of the dam for the 960-acre Tired Creek lake.
In a letter dated Nov. 1 that was received by County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley over the weekend, Kelly C. Finch, chief of the Coastal Branch of the Corps office in Savannah, signed off on the Master Lake Management Plan, the Fisheries Management Plan and the Water Quality Monitoring Plan.
This means the county has received the final authorization to begin timber harvesting at the dam site and the lower half of the lake pool. The county must delay harvesting timber for the entire lake pool until baseline data on water quality north of the dam is completed, which Cauley says will take several months.
“This is a significant step in the process of building this lake. The lake management plan is the largest permit requirement. Approval of it allows us to harvest timber and begin the construction of the dam,” Cauley said while briefing Grady County commissioners Tuesday morning.
The only thing holding up putting the dam construction out for bid is approval of the dam design through the Georgia Safe Dams program.
According to Cauley, this process is not handled by the Corps, but by the state, and is an engineering assessment of the dam designed by engineers with Schnabel Engineering, the county’s consulting engineers on the dam project.
Cauley said he anticipates Georgia officials will sign off on the safe dams authorization in the next few weeks.
The county attorney participated in a conference call early Tuesday with other county consultants including Laura Wahoske Benz of the law office of Wm. Thomas Craig, Russell Fowler of Flint River Timber, and Dave Malcom and Charlie Johnson of Wood & Partners to discuss the project status and future timeline.
Fowler, who is the county’s timber consultant, recommended Cauley contact Schnabel to determine if it would be best for the county to bid out the timber harvest separate from the dam construction or as a package.
According to Cauley, Schnabel is prepared to put the project out for bid immediately after the safe dams approval is received.
The county would accept bids for 30 days and would allow 30 days for bid review before awarding a contract.
“So we are looking at March,” Vice Chairman Billy Poitevint asked. “Then or a little sooner depending on the safe dams ok,” Cauley said.
Cauley said he is not anticipating any problem obtaining the state’s approval of the dam design. “We hired some of the best engineers in the country to design the dam. This is basically an administrative process. All of the environmental hurdles have been cleared,” the county attorney said.
Although water quality monitoring north of the dam site is currently underway, Cauley said that would not prevent the county from beginning dam construction. “It will take a year and a half to build the dam and while we are underway with construction the water monitoring will continue,” he said.
The county attorney also reported that the comment period on the county’s wetland and streambank mitigation plan has now closed and the Corps should be acting on it shortly.
County Commissioner Charles Norton said the county should use local contractors to do work on the lake project as much as possible. “We need to keep as much of that money in Grady County as possible,” Norton said.
“Absolutely,” said Cauley and he added, “I have mentioned that to our consultants and engineers many times before but I will mention it again.”
The county’s Lake Management Plan, Fisheries Management Plan and Water Quality Monitoring Plan were put out for comment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Comments received from these agencies and comments from the Corps were provided to Laura Wahoske Benz, the county’s agent, and the master plan was revised and submitted for approval.
Corps Coast Branch Chief Finch wrote, ” . . . you may initiate site work necessary for construction of the dam and begin preconstruction timber harvesting in the vicinity of the dam and the lower half of the lake pool.”
Cauley said he hopes to have an answer from Schnabel Engineering as to how to best bid the harvesting of the timber so that the process can get underway.
“Harvesting the timber at the dam site is a big step,” Commission Chairman Elwyn Childs said and added, “it sounds real good, I just wish Rusty (Moye) were here to read it.”
County Administrator Rusty Moye died Sept. 27 and had been an instrumental player in the lake project during his tenure as county administrator.
Attorney Cauley also reported that he has been in contact with Savannah attorney Jon Pannell concerning proposed local legislation creating a Tired Creek Lake authority. Cauley said he would schedule a work session with commissioners when a draft is complete.
He also said that hearings regarding appeals filed against the lake project are set for early December.
In other related news Tuesday, the county commission authorized payment of an invoice totaling $7,613.13 from Attorney Ed Tolley, who is representing the county in the ongoing litigation regarding the lake.

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