County files suit against contractors involved in mitigation

Contractors and individuals involved in the wetland and stream mitigation projects related to the Tired Creek Lake are being sued by the Grady County Commission and the Grady County Lake Authority, according to documents filed recently in the Grady County office of the Clerk of Superior Court.
The county and lake authority are seeking to recover in excess of $6 million in damages from Kent Campbell, Eco-South, Inc., Environs Design Studio, LLC, Georgia Civil, Inc., Steven M. Jones, Meanders River Restoration, Inc., Cal Lauder and Cal-Mart, Inc.
The plaintiffs are claiming negligence and breach of contract related to the work done on the mitigation portion of the lake project.
According to the suit, which was filed by attorney Robert D. Howell on behalf of the plaintiffs, the mitigation plan developed by defendants Kent Campbell and Eco-South during the lake’s permitting phase was ultimately approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The county contracted with Campbell and Eco-South to implement the plan. Subsequently, on the recommendation of Campbell and Eco-South, the county also hired defendants Steven M. Jones and Meanders River Restoration, Inc., to assist in the construction phase of the Brumbley Creek mitigation site. The county also hired defendant Cal Lauder and Cal-Mart to perform construction services on the mitigation sites.
Work on three separate perpetual easements, which were acquired by the county, known as “Brumbley Creek site,” “Old 179 site,” and “Lake Douglas site,” began in 2013.
In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that Campbell and Eco-South oversaw the work of defendants Jones, Meanders, Lauder and/or Cal-Mart.
In December 2014, the Corps of Engineers and its Interagency Review Team completed an onsite inspection of the mitigation sites. During that inspection, Corps officials discovered multiple and “serious discrepancies” between the approved construction plans and the actual construction work completed.
As of Dec. 2014, Campbell had become an employee of defendants Environs and Georgia Civil. Campbell and Eco-South transferred its contracts with the county to Campbell’s new employer and he continued to do work for the county.
The suit states that Campbell, following the Corps inspection, told the county that any “redesign or modifications to the permit regarding mitigation will not cost the county.”
However, in a letter dated Feb. 17, 2015, the Corps notified the county the mitigation sites had not been built in accordance with the approved plan and the county was not in compliance with the conditions of its Federal 404 permit, which authorizes the construction of the 960-acre lake.
On or about March 10, 2015, the county provided the Corps with a revised mitigation plan developed by defendants Campbell, Eco-South, Environs and Georgia Civil. In the revised plan, Campbell explained his reasoning for the deviations from the approved plans. He acknowledged that he revised the approved plan based on his professional judgment and without any prior coordination or authorization by the Corps.
The revised plan was not accepted, and the county was notified by the Corps in April 2015. In an April 6, 2015 letter from the Corps, the county was notified that due to the defendants’ actions the county was left with a deficiency of 136,963 stream and 1,022.9 wetland credits needed prior to the Corps granting the county authorization to impound the lake.
It was in this same letter the Corps suggested the county purchase the necessary credits from an approved mitigation bank.
The county responded on April 27, 2015, by demanding defendants Campbell, Eco-South, Environs, and Georgia Civil provide the deficient mitigation credits or bear the costs associated so that the impoundment of the lake could occur.
On Sept. 8, 2015, the county was notified by the Corps that a stabilization plan for stream channels on the three mitigation sites would be required as well. It was at that time the county became aware that defendants Jones, Meanders, Lauder and Cal-Mart’s design and/or construction work on these sites was defective, had been performed in a “nonskillful and non-workmanlike manner” and had been rejected by the Corps.
Left with no other choice if it wished to impound the lake, the county in March 2016 purchased $5,980,000 stream and wetland credits to meet its permit requirements and the Corps ultimately granted authorization to impound.
The suit goes on to state “without purchasing the requisite mitigation credits in order to satisfy the USACE’s permit conditions, Grady County was unable to impound the lake it had spent millions to construct thus rendering it a valueless hole in the ground.”
The county is seeking a jury trial in this matter, which would be held in Grady County Superior Court.
Howell, the county’s attorney in this matter, filed the suit on Sept. 30.
In February, the county approved the hiring of Howell to work in conjunction with county attorney Kevin S. Cauley and Tired Creek consultant, attorney Laura Benz to recover damages related to the mitigation project.
The county received authorization in June to begin filling the lake and that process is currently underway. As of Tuesday, the lake level was 200.31 feet above sea level. A full pool is 220.2 feet above sea level.

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