Columbia County, developers sued over Jones Creek stormwater erosion

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Columbia County and several developments near Jones Creek golf course were sued Monday in U.S. District Court over allegations that poor engineering design, lax enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act and other misdeeds have allowed unchecked erosion to damage property and to pollute streams and lakes with silt and litter.

The 175-page complaint was filed by Jones Creek Investors, the owners of the 195-acre golf course and related amenities, and by the environmental group Savannah Riverkeeper Inc.

Named as defendants, in addition to Columbia County, were CSX Transportation, which owns culverts and embankments alleged to have failed and contributed to the erosion damage; the owners of the Marshall Square project in Evans; the owners of Krystal River Commercial Park; and the Jones Creek Partners, which developed high-density townhomes near the golf course.

The townhome project, known as Willow Lake Phase II, involves 10.8 acres, of which 9.3 acres were cleared to accommodate 43 single-family home lots adjacent to Willow Lake, a 6.3-acre pond that provides irrigation for the golf course and is also an aesthetic amenity for Jones Creek, the complaint said.

Since the townhome project commenced, “discharges of eroded soils, sediments, sediment-laden storm water, rock, sand, dirt, debris and other pollutants into Willow Lake have increased, resulting in significant accumulations of sediment and repeated instances of turbid or visually impacted water,” the complaint said.

A network of streams carries sediment from the other defendants’ properties into the lake and other areas of the golf course, the plaintiffs allege, and the problem has affected the golf course’s irrigation system, which uses 280,000 to 350,000 gallons per day of Willow Lake’s water during hot weather.

The sediment has reduced the health of the course’s greens and damaged the sprinkler system and its distribution lines and heads, and caused flooding, erosion along fairway areas and damage to the Willow Lake dam and spillway, the complaint said.

The increasing frequency of floods has rendered portions of the course unplayable and caused the owners lost revenues from fewer rounds played, lost revenue during Masters Week, a “perception” that the course is sometimes wet and unusable, and the costs of cleaning up the repair after floods occur.

Such damages are in excess of $3.77 million and continue to mount because the problems remain uncorrected, said the complaint, in which the plaintiffs are seeking corrective action and damages; they have demanded a jury trial.

The lawsuit was filed only after the plaintiffs “made numerous attempts, through oral, written, and in-person communications with the appropriate State, County and other agencies to stop the discharges complained of herein without obtaining a satisfactory resolution to the problem,” the complaint said.

The defendants will file a response to the allegations at a later date.

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Chillen 10/17/11 - 03:27 pm
10 years later and $10

10 years later and $10 million in legal & court fees later they will reach a settlement and a conclusion to this story. Seems like they are blaming everybody in this lawsuit to see "what sticks".

trimmy 10/17/11 - 03:58 pm
Greed causes all of this.

Greed causes all of this. Stop developing every piece of land. These money hungry fools are responsible for the need for more water, more sewage treatment, more schools, more buses for the schools, more gas for the buses, more roads, more road maintenance, more law enforcement, and somehow the cost for all of this will trickle down to guess who? Why can't there just be a rural community with peace and quiet anymore? I'll tell you why. GREED

JustLQQking 10/17/11 - 04:28 pm
Chillen, I agree that this

Chillen, I agree that this will more than likely drag out in the court system for years to come and end up costing everyone (especially us taxpayers) more money than I will ever see in my lifetime. But I have also looked online and based on what I have found, the county has employees on the payroll that are suppose to look at issues such as this AND the owners of these developments are responsible, by law, for making sure issues such as this are avoided as much as possible. Based on what I have read, 100% sedimentation loss is virtually impossible; however, if this type of damage is present, it is obviously someone was not doing what they are suppose to do by law and someone was not doing what they are getting paid to do. What happens to our environment today will have a lasting impact on the environment for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren for many years to come. Just my thoughts.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 10/17/11 - 04:54 pm
When development filled up

When development filled up Bowen Pond (in Westlake Subdivision), the residents of Westlake convinced the county commission to dredge the pond at taxpayer expense (even though the pond is private and inside a gated community).

Who wants to bet that the County won't come to the rescue of the Jones Creek Golf Course?

floridasun 10/17/11 - 05:27 pm
Columbia County is over

Columbia County is over developed. I say good luck to the plaintiffs. Columbia County is supposed to have departments/employees to prevent erosion such as this from occurring.
Why is the developer always right in Columbia County, aka the land of asphalt and shopping centers

Riverman1 10/17/11 - 06:28 pm
Run-off from development has

Run-off from development has been affecting my cove on the river for decades. We've had newspaper articles and complained to everyone.

Some housing areas, such as Carriage Hills have been given exemptions for retention ponds. It's who you know when it comes to erosion enforcement. Good luck with the lawsuit.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 10/17/11 - 08:49 pm
It will be settled out of

It will be settled out of court with insurance companies paying, provided the defendants have insurance.

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 10/18/11 - 12:36 am
(F)loridasun, Yes, my home


Yes, my home county is overdeveloped.

Even worse, Columbia County is overdevelopered and overbureaucratized.

And we fret over who's going to win ballgames on Friday nights and Saturdays. Must we depend upon a Columbian economy to conserve the remaining natural beauty of our county from the philistines of commerce and their minions in government.

noway 10/18/11 - 10:23 am
It's about time! The counties

It's about time! The counties are so interested in development, development, development, at the risk of our natural resources. There is a point where development is not good, and Columbia County reached that point. They should complain and get compensated. These are real issues. If your back yard was eroding due to development, you'd be complaining too. I hope they get all of their money and more.

Dixieman 10/18/11 - 10:40 am
I keep warning you people

I keep warning you people about the leftist agenda of Savannah Riverkeepers. Ignore the happy photos of pretty girls picking up trash along the river -- now they show their fangs by litigating! These folks are watermelons, green on the outside but red on the inside. Beware!

Discussionstarter 10/21/11 - 10:07 am
Bowen Pond filled up with

Bowen Pond filled up with debris, silt, etc. due to thirty plus years of uncontrolled growth in Columbia County. Take a look at the county maps and see the extent of drainage area that passes through Bowen Pond. West Lake residents did not cause this; Columbia County negligence did! If Bowen Pond were my personal family property... I would be suing Columbia County just like these guys. We have been paying storm water utility fees for years; part of these fees go to remediation as well as oversight. As this article implies.... oversight has failed and property damage has occurred.

unbiased_propaganda 10/24/11 - 02:12 pm
Dixieman - You would be

Dixieman - You would be right, except for the fact that EVERY OTHER COMMENT is in favor of the Riverkeepers and Jones Creek! I checked out your previous comments and you have a history of bashing this group for some reason.

Everyone else on this comment thread is FOR the plaintiffs and the litigation.

Why don't you come with some facts and proof, instead of just name-calling? What have you done for the environment other than come on websites and bad mouth the people that are actually doing something to improve our world. Instead of just sitting on a computer chair in front of a screen and complaining?

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