A slow-moving culvert project designed to prevent flooding along Reed Creek could also jeopardize a 20-acre lake in one of Columbia County’s older subdivisions, according to residents.
“The joke is that this will turn Springlakes into Springfield,” said John Capes, the president of the Springlakes Property Owners Association.
The $814,000 project has closed off Sandalwood Drive at the back of the lake for the past 120 days – and the closure was extended last week for another 30 days to allow contractors to finish installing culverts.
The problem, Capes said, is that the concrete block and streamlined channels that replaced tranquil green space and ancient trees are both an eyesore and a conduit that will move stormwater with greatly increased velocity.
“Our lake is already filling in with silt, and the county is using it as a detention lake,” he said. “And, aesthetically, they’ve destroyed this place. It’s a huge mud hole.”
The project is one of many planned by county officials to control stormwater and ward off floods, especially in the areas upstream from Springlakes.
Although the project is moving slowly, and the detours are an annoyance to residents, Water Utility Director Bill Clayton said the project is nearly complete.
“The contractor has not pursued it as aggressively as we’d like, and it hasn’t moved as fast as we would prefer,” Clayton said. If the project remains incomplete when the contracted final date expires on Nov. 25, the county may take further action.
Regardless of the ultimate completion date, county officials also pledged to help restore the impacted area to make it more aesthetically appealing.
“The contractor will take it to a certain level, and then we would go back in with a landscaping contractor to take it to another level,” Clayton said.
Capes said many residents have serious doubts the area can be restored at all. “You can’t grow trees in concrete,” he said.
Officials are facing challenges in maintaining and modifying stormwater infrastructure in light of rapid growth and erosion and sedimentation issues in developed areas.
Last month, Columbia County and several developments near Jones Creek Golf Club were sued in U.S. District Court over allegations that poor design, lax enforcement of the Clean Water Act and other misdeeds have allowed erosion to damage property and pollute streams and lakes. The county has not yet responded to the complaint.
Although Springlakes is not involved in the suit, some of the issues the suit has raised are also of concern to its residents, Capes said.
Clayton said he hopes homeowners will be patient and allow the county to complete the job.
“We want it to be done right,” he said. “When judgment is passed on this project, I want it be on the final product – not on a snapshot of what it looks like on a given day.”