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Homeowners upset that only portion of Lake Olmstead will be dredged

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 7:43 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 2:10 AM
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Tyrone McDonald, of Hephzibah, leans near the edge of a wall at the Lakeshore Loop Road bridge as he fishes at Lake Olmstead. Only the upper portion and a lower edge of Lake Olmstead will be dredged.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Tyrone McDonald, of Hephzibah, leans near the edge of a wall at the Lakeshore Loop Road bridge as he fishes at Lake Olmstead. Only the upper portion and a lower edge of Lake Olmstead will be dredged.

Homeowners along Lake Olmstead got a rude awakening when a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ notice of a pending city dredging application pointed to a forgotten corner of the 100-acre lake across Washington Road.

Lakemont Homeowners Association President Brooke Buxton said she and fellow Olmstead homeowners were flabbergasted to learn, from the notice, that the city’s $4 million 2009 sales tax appropriation for dredging was intended only for the upper portion and a lower edge adjoining the Augusta Canal.

“Probably 100 percent of the public would not consider that a part of the lake,” said Buxton, calling the move a “bait-and-switch” after years of homeowner association communications with city officials about the application status.

The decision offers nothing toward increasing recreational and revenue opportunities at the lake’s larger lower portion, which is clotted with silt, weeds and trash – even the remains of sunken waterski ramps, she said.

The decision, however, has been in the works for years and always has been to dredge the upper portion because it bears the brunt of silt accumulation from the entire Rae’s Creek basin, said city Engineering Director Abie Ladson.

The corps recommended the city include similar dredging projects at other sites along the basin – including Aumond Lake, Hiers Pond and Warren Lake – in its application for convenience, but the $4 million is designated for the two sites at Olmstead, he said.

“With that kind of money, you just get the really bad, the worst areas,” Ladson said. “There wasn’t any intention of doing the whole lake. The cost would probably be astronomical.”

The project calls for the removal of 90,200 cubic yards of material from the upper part of the lake and 37,500 cubic yards from the lower part, affecting a total of about 25 acres, according to the application.

Buxton said the association hopes to make what might seem impossible to city officials a reality and is petitioning the city to amend its application to cover the whole lake.

It’s the right thing to do for what once was considered “the jewel of the South” and attracted tourists by trolley to swim and boat, she said.

“I think the will of the people, and just general wisdom, would dictate that the lake needs to be dredged,” Buxton said.

Ladson added that anything is possible if the Augusta Commission agrees, and he is developing a “conceptual estimate” to dredge the entire lake. He expected the cost to run between $10 million and $20 million.

Members of the homeowner association will present their proposal to the city’s engineering services committee Monday, Buxton said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has requested an additional 30 days to review the city’s application, which puts the end of that public comment period sometime around March, said Forrest Vanderbilt, a regulatory specialist for the corps’ Coastal Branch.

With no other changes, the completed application usually takes about 120 days for final approval, Vanderbilt said.

City officials denied misleading the public about the project. City Administrator Fred Russell said any talk about the entire lake being dredged had been “conceptual,” and District 7 Commissioner Donnie Smith said he has researched the situation thoroughly and will listen to the association’s plea Monday.

“I don’t think there was ever enough money to dredge the entire system,” said former Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who represented the lake’s western banks for two terms until leaving office last year. “I’m sure whatever is done will make Lake Olmstead better than how it’s going now.”

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floridasun 01/23/13 - 09:46 pm
Dredge the whole lake Improve

Dredge the whole lake
Improve the quality of life for the tax paying homeowners around the lake
This type of work seems a lot more important than TEE centers

itsanotherday1 01/23/13 - 09:57 pm

No. 10-20 MILLION for that handful of homes? They haven't paid that much in property taxes in recoreded Augusta history. Why do you want to subsidize them?

I wish we could get the taxpayers to kick in 15 million for my neighborhood's quality of life....

Johnny Hensley
Johnny Hensley 01/24/13 - 05:07 am
Dredging Lake Olmstead

I understand the concern we all have who a vested interest in the dredging of Lake Olmstead, but if you give the folks in charge a chance to explain the makes sense. All the silt and debris entering the lake comes much further up from some other smaller ponds and Raes Creek. If you don't dredge these areas FIRST, then all the silt, etc that would otherwise be taken from Lake Olmstead would in short order be right back in Lake Olmstead because the source of the problem has not be eliminated. I have no doubt the people in charge want all of Lake Olmstead dredged...but it needs to be done right...and it will take time.

thauch12 01/24/13 - 05:14 am

Please don't waste any more of my tax dollars to appease a few disgruntled homeowners who seem to think this public lake is their private property. If they feel so strongly about it why don't they raise the additional $6-16 million and get it dredged themselves? It's easy to make such ridiculous demands when the bill is being footed by someone else...

OpenCurtain 01/24/13 - 08:00 am
Time to do some interesting fishing.

Run down to Harbor Freight and buy a 200lbs magnet and 100ft of good nylon rope.

Then got fishing around the bridges.

You are likely to find some interesting items.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/24/13 - 09:33 am
A Little at a Time

From the story:

. . . but the $4 million is designated for the two sites at Olmstead, Augusta Engineering Director Abie Ladson said. “With that kind of money, you just get the really bad, the worst areas,” Ladson said. “There wasn’t any intention of doing the whole lake. The cost would probably be astronomical.”

If they would dredge a little bit each year as a regularly-budgeted item, it wouldn't become so controversial or "astronomical" (to quote Ladson). But, no, they wait until there are actual flow barriers that create problems before they act. I guess it's modeled after the Obama administration — keep a continual flow of crisis situations (self-made crises, by the way) in order to keep the masses dazed, confused, and compliant.

Frita's Boss
Frita's Boss 01/24/13 - 10:09 am
To the naysayers: Could you

To the naysayers:

Could you imagine what having a CLEAN lake to swim, boat, and fish in the HEART of the city would be like? Sounds awesome to me.

You should see the garbage that floats from Raes Creek to Lake Olmstead. It's disgusting and quite dangerous.

I'm all for dredging Raes Creek and Lake Olmstead.

Keep fighting the good fight Ms. Buxton!

Jake 01/24/13 - 11:43 am

I think I would be very careful about eating fish that came out of Lake Olmstead given that Rae's Creek and other run-offs drain into it. The fertilizers and herbicides that the Augusta National uses are probably not very good for ingestion.

bubbasauce 01/24/13 - 11:49 am
This neighborhood sounds like

This neighborhood sounds like everyday America these days. Gimme more, gimme more, gimme more or I'm gonna tell! Yes it is so easy to want a whole lot more when the service you are getting is on the taxpayers dime. I would love to see people swimming in that lake. Guess what? Won't happen. Then if someone got hurt or even drowned they would want to sue Augusta with the thousands of bottom feeding lawyers we have this day and time. Be happy with what you get and have a nice day!

allhans 01/24/13 - 12:04 pm
Don't forget Lake Aumond and

Don't forget Lake Aumond and the flood several years ago. All due to poor drainage along Rae's Creek......

mooseye 01/24/13 - 01:15 pm

In that water? I don't care if you dredge every pond, creeek and ditch connected to Lake ()lmstead, I don't want to swim in what runs into it.
"back in the day" there was not the same pollution as we have today.
You can't dredge out what runs in continuously.
I am sure that the corp had no plan to improve the recreational aspect of the lake. The work has to do with drainage.
I think it would be up to the people of the area to raise the funds for any kind of improvement to the quality of the lake.

PghSteelersFan 01/24/13 - 01:29 pm
I remember when there were

I remember when there were water ski shows on Lake Olmstead which account for the sunken ski ramps. You could actually swim in the lake too. On Sundays you could drive through and see families enjoying the Park.
The part across Washington Rd was also clean of weeds etc. People who lived on parts of Overton Rd in Country Club Hills had a nice clean lake on the edge of their backyards.
Aumond Lake used to be one big lake with a spillway under Walton Way Ext. When they redid the road they put in the new larger dam with a new spillway and the road back on top. While the dam was being constructed the entire lake was drained to do the work and two lakes were formed from one. There were few houses around the lake then. Not what there is today. It was also in the County and maintaining it was a County task in those days.
It's too bad though the City hasn't seen fit to keep up all of Lake Olmstead (both sides of Washington Rd) over the years. I don't know how Julian Smith Park looks today in general but cleaning up the Lake and even bringing back the water ski shows, etc would be an asset to the whole Community.
When the original ski shows and swimming were going on, the Augusta National and most likely the Country Club had been using herbicides for years and the stuff ran into Rae's Creek. The Lake being clean and moving kept the majority of the stuff from sticking around. These days I am sure both golf clubs use more 'earth friendly' materials. Cleaning the entire lake would again mean flowing water and most of what does flow down would move on through again.

corgimom 01/24/13 - 02:41 pm
Dredging out that pond is an

Dredging out that pond is an exercise in futility and a waste of money, it just fills right back up again. It makes no sense to spend millions to dredge it out when you have a river just a few miles away, and a huge lake 20 miles away. Finally, there's some common sense being used. That pond was never clean, it just took years for people to realize it.

David Parker
David Parker 01/24/13 - 03:41 pm
If their is a problem of

If their is a problem of drainage at the root of all this, isn't that a city maintenance issue that would fall under the responsibility of a city department? Everytime silt builds-up in the sewers or a low-lying area, they don't impose a splost to get it cleared. It either doesn't get cleared or resources are allocated. What is the point of having permanent infrastructure if they have to find more money to accomplish things on a case by case basis? Why doesn't the city contract the work out when the need arises? All the money used to sustain the department can be saved and used piece-meal. That way, when there isn't alot of need, there can be overages to amass... for ohhhh, i don't know, dredging Lake Olmstead.

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