Many Jones Creek residents attended the Columbia County Commission meeting Tuesday in search of answers to a flooding problem that continues to wreak havoc on property values in the neighborhood.
Residents who own homes around Willow Lake on the back of Jones Creek Golf Club say that over the past two years, overgrown vegetation growing from silt buildup has caused severe flooding and damage and even decreased property values.
Many residents left the meeting disappointed, saying only one resident was allowed to speak on behalf of the group.
The residents say the problem is caused by poor planning and developments such as Marshall Square, Evans Towne Center Park and other ongoing projects. Silt runoff is flowing down from the developed areas into the basin of Willow Lake, which
also acts as a spillway into the Savannah River.
“We are like a basin, everything off of Belair, Blackstone Camp, Furys Ferry, it all comes in here and it all comes right there and empties over the spillway and goes into the Savannah,” said Sandra Griffin, a Willow Lake Lane resident.
Residents claim the county has long ignored the silt build-up that has turned the once-deep Willow Lake into nothing more than a mud puddle, often with no more than 12 inches of water. Residents say the impact to Willow Lake is growing worse every year it is ignored.
“The pond serves as a major source of water to water the golf course,” said Willow Lake Lane resident Bob McVicker. “If that stops and the course starts to deteriorate, then basically you are talking about all of the property owners in Jones Creek are going to see an issue.”
That issue is a decrease in property values, which Griffin said she is experiencing first-hand.
“I have had my house listed right now on the market for over three months,” she said. “The Realtor has told us if this doesn’t stop, it’s already down 30 percent, minimum 30 percent.”
Griffin said that a 6-foot clearance ditch between her property and the stream leading to Willow Lake is now no more than a 12-inch space that is overcome with rushing water each time it rains.
“The water is eroding the golf course. The golf course is actually being eaten away by the rush of the water that’s coming through,” Griffin said. “When this silt comes in, it hardens, and we’ve got full grown trees out there now.”
The problem is not new to the area. Lakes in subdivisions including West Lake and Springlakes are also experiencing similar problems, McVicker said.
“People over in Springlakes they’re watching this fairly intently to see what the outcome is,” he said.
Commissioners would not comment because of two lawsuits filed by the owners of Jones Creek Golf Club in regards to damage to the course.
McVicker said he has become frustrated that the county has put them in a defenseless position, saying neighbors were
denied a request to personally finance construction of a wall to cut down on the damaging waters.
“Even if you have the money and chose to put something out there, the county would stop you from doing it. So it’s kind of like you’re caught in the middle,” he said.
Residents say merely dredging the lake will cause more problems down the road.
“I think the main problem here is that the subdivision does not realize the impact that this little lake has on 600-some odd lives,” Griffin said. “They don’t realize that (Willow Lake) is the lifeline to this golf course. and I think that once they realize that then I think there would be a whole lot more people involved than just us with our properties facing possible flooding.”