History, debris flow along Rae's Creek

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Rae's Creek is both a blessing and a bother to Bill Bass.

Bill Bass says the water near his home Lake Aumond, background, has been creeping up steadily this year to the point where an area that he planted grass on is now underwater.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Bill Bass says the water near his home Lake Aumond, background, has been creeping up steadily this year to the point where an area that he planted grass on is now underwater.

"Sometimes it's beautiful," he said. "But it also has its problems."

Bass moved to a home on Lake Aumond -- fed by Rae's Creek -- almost 15 years ago.

Since then, the problems plaguing the waterway made famous by Augusta National Golf Club's Amen Corner have worsened.

"You want tennis balls? I have a trash can full," he said.

When it rains, they wash downstream from a nearby racquet club -- along with paper cups, cigarette butts and other litter.

The creek has always had issues with urban runoff, lawn fertilizers and litter, but environmentalists say there is mounting evidence it also faces contamination issues that warrant intervention -- and more protection.

In 2008, for example, research students led by Augusta State University biology professor Donna Wear found elevated levels of mercury, arsenic and other toxic materials in fish and sediment samples. Other issues include low oxygen, siltation and erosion.

Tonya Bontatibus, leader of the Savannah Riverkeeper group, believes it might be time to add the creek to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's list of impaired waterways, which entitles them to better monitoring and more protection.

"When EPD showed us data for impaired waterways, Rae's Creek wasn't even on it," she said. "That's just a product of not having the data collected in the way the state needs to have it."

Bontatibus noted that Augusta officials are planning the eventual dredging of Lake Olmstead on the creek's lower end -- and expressed hopes the project will include other areas, such as Lake Aumond and Hiers Pond.

"Some of the areas farther upstream are in much worse shape than Lake Olmstead," she said. "It wouldn't work to clean the lower end of the creek without cleaning up the upper end first."

A group loosely known as the Rae's Creek Coalition has gradually been collecting new data on the waterway, which -- in time -- could be used to help change its designation to an impaired waterway.

Currently, such designations apply to portions of McBean, Spirit and Rocky creeks in Richmond County.

"If it were listed as an impaired stream, it opens up possible federal funding and it also opens it up to monitoring that must occur by EPD," she said. "It helps define the general recognition that there is a problem with the waterway so we can move forward to rehabilitate it."

Jeff Darley, the program manager at EPD's Augusta district office, said the designations are managed by the Stream Monitoring Unit, which concentrates on different watersheds each year.

Impaired waterway designations can be made for many reasons, including sediment issues, low oxygen, fecal coliform and other types of pollution.

A waterway designated as impaired by sediment, for example, might get better protection from upstream development through better land management practices.

Many of the creek's problems stem from its long history -- and its path through many of Augusta's most urbanized areas.

The creek's headwaters spring from the ground off Frontage Road near Interstate 20. It crosses Wrightsboro Road twice before flowing toward west Augusta.

Ever since Irishman John Rae established a grist mill on its banks in 1765, the creek that now bears his name has fostered lumber mills, a possible gold mine and a foundry -- all possible sources of the heavy metals and other materials found by Augusta State students in their surveys.

Today, its banks are mostly flanked by neighborhoods.

"At the very least, it needs to be cleaned up, visually," Bass said. "There is so much silt in some places, you can walk across it."

Comments (20) Add comment
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FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 02/27/10 - 02:46 am
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Yes it needs to be cleaned

Yes it needs to be cleaned up. There should be an assessment for all that live along it to help with the cleanup.

april65
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april65 02/27/10 - 05:48 am
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Does trash really flow

Does trash really flow downstream? Great preface for an article.

deekster
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deekster 02/27/10 - 06:37 am
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And "scum" always rises to

And "scum" always rises to "the top". Muck sinks to the bottom. Haven't noticed any "trash" at the Augusta National?

deekster
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deekster 02/27/10 - 06:59 am
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Used to ride through Rae's

Used to ride through Rae's Creek with my father. It ran across what is now Maddox Rd. off Flowing Wells Rd. near the old "Misty Waters Pool".

crackertroy
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crackertroy 02/27/10 - 07:53 am
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Rae's Creek flows directly
Unpublished

Rae's Creek flows directly adjacent to my house and some of the things I pull out of there I can't even identify. They look like air conditioner parts or something. Countless bottles, jugs, beer cans.

The Godfather
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The Godfather 02/27/10 - 07:53 am
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The Goddess of the cell The

The Goddess of the cell The Madonna of biology

disssman
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disssman 02/27/10 - 08:17 am
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Bill and the rest of the

Bill and the rest of the folks need to remember that we had a bit more rain this year than we have had in the past. It is an absolute shame that people throw junk into a waterway. In all the time I have spent in Europe, I don't ever recall people dumping trash into springs and rivers.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 09:43 am
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It does make sense what the

It does make sense what the lady said above. If you're going to do a dredging campaign, you should start at the top. But you just watch - - our county commissioners will authorize a dredging of Lake Olmstead first.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 09:45 am
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Also, the lady said she wants

Also, the lady said she wants the EPD to “help.” Be careful what you ask for. You may get more “help” than you bargained for.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/27/10 - 10:33 am
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Why not organize a community

Why not organize a community volunteer effort to clean it up?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 10:39 am
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Twenty or thirty years ago

Twenty or thirty years ago that is exactly what interested citizens would have done, RM. However, this is 21st century America and we want the government to do everything for us, including pick up our litter.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 10:41 am
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What a shame. Whoever posted

What a shame. Whoever posted the tip about putting Chinese tennis balls in the creek as a pollution control device deleted their post just three minutes ago.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 10:46 am
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How about this from the

How about this from the article above:

Research students led by Augusta State University biology professor Donna Wear found elevated levels of mercury, arsenic and other toxic materials in fish and sediment samples.

Why shouldn't there be “elevated levels” of some pollutants there? The creek is in the middle of the most industrialized city in Georgia. What do you expect?

corgimom
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corgimom 02/27/10 - 10:50 am
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Little Lamb, stop making

Little Lamb, stop making sense!

disssman
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disssman 02/27/10 - 01:13 pm
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Actually littlelamb I

Actually littlelamb I suggested putting tennis balls in peoples swimming pools to soak up the pollution in the air from all the chemical plants. And yes, chinese tennis balls are prefered because they are cheal and the covering is so rough they collect mosre scum.

disssman
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disssman 02/27/10 - 01:16 pm
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Could it be that the high

Could it be that the high levels of poison are from the national using too much bug killer? I wonder if they monitor the inflow and the outflow of that facility. It is a known fact that golf courses are large polluters of ground water. And I believe the creek runs right thru one. Hopefilly they are monitoring it.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/27/10 - 02:41 pm
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Yeah, even dream about the

Yeah, even dream about the part of Rae's Creek running through the National coming under the rules of the EPD. Heh, heh, heh.

jam30830
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jam30830 02/27/10 - 09:17 pm
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Little Lamb has an answer for

Little Lamb has an answer for every single article on the Augusta Chronicle's site and it usually involves nothing but criticism, cynicism, and sarcasm. I have yet to see anything positive from this person or any solutions or anything that makes an ounce of sense.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/27/10 - 09:30 pm
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Jam, Little Lamb is an astute

Jam, Little Lamb is an astute observer who posts insightful and intelligent comments. Attack her comments if you must, not her. You have only posted twice and this is one of them. That is funny.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/27/10 - 10:25 pm
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Hi, Jam. Welcome to the

Hi, Jam. Welcome to the online Chronicle comments section. I look forward to debating with you. My criticism on this forum is intended to invoke soul searching and sharpening of one's logical thinking process. Please respond to the actual ideas I post and not to my avatar.

Discussionstarter
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Discussionstarter 02/28/10 - 11:40 am
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Need to do an article on the

Need to do an article on the status of dredging on Bowen [Westlake] Pond in Columbia County. The project seems to be dragging and rumor has it the whole pond is not going to get dredged.

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