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Erosion Control Measures Questioned at 1,700-Acre Development in Georgia

Wed July 20, 2005 - Southeast Edition
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FORSYTH, GA (AP) A subdivision being built in north Monroe County is causing serious erosion into a local river, one of the worst cases state environmental officials said they’ve seen.

Construction at the River Forest subdivision, a 1,700-acre development, is dumping large amounts of red clay into the Little Towaliga River, said Johnny Henson, a senior environmental specialist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“This is probably the worst erosion and sedimentation site we’ve ever seen,” Henson said of River Forest, a gated golf and equestrian subdivision approximately 5 mi. north of Forsyth. “We found countless violations. … This is a high-profile deal.”

Henson told The Macon Telegraph that all the erosion is making the river run “red as blood,” and that he’s surprised that no fish kills have been reported.

Developers said they’re following the rules.

Frank Wilson, a real estate attorney representing developer David Aldridge, said River Forest has instituted all erosion control measures and that excessive rain in recent weeks is to blame for the erosion.

“We’re in shock. We are absolutely in shock,” Wilson said. “We’re wondering what’s going on here.”

Henson said Monroe County could lose its issuing authority if it fails to enforce erosion rules. He asked county zoning officer John Kutscher, who makes erosion control inspections for the county, to issue a stop-work order for River Forest June 30.

Monroe County Commission Chairman Harold Carlisle defended the erosion inspector.

“We have one man who issues permits, inspects and keeps up with zoning. We do not have anyone dedicated totally to soil erosion. We don’t have the payroll for that. But he goes out on a regular basis,” Carlisle said.

Among the problems at River Forest cited by Henson were erosion control measures that were never installed or maintained; failure to pay required fees to the state for soil disturbance; failure to keep track of how murky the creek water and runoff is, and failure to update an erosion and sedimentation plan.

In addition, River Forest failed to notify people buying the home lots they are secondary permittees — meaning the buyers can be held partially responsible for breaking the erosion laws, Henson said.

Henson said some kayakers who fish the area regularly reported the problem after seeing the color of the water and being unable to catch any red-eye bass, which were once common in the Little Towaliga. Henson said the fish and other aquatic life have been harmed by the erosion.

Henson said he has checked upstream and found the Little Towaliga running clear until it reaches River Forest.

Troy Winebarger, of Byron, regularly fishes the rivers. He said he has noticed the Little Towaliga being muddy since first visiting it last September.

“The Little Towaliga is a beautiful river. It’s like visiting a trout stream in north Georgia,” he said. “We just want to keep it clean so people can enjoy it.”

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