Gainesville is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin an Ecosystem Restoration Project on Flat Creek that will be partially funded by the corps.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, members voted unanimously to accept the Public Utilities Department's request to enter into a partnership with the corps to complete the restoration project as part of the city's Watershed Improvement Plan and Ecosystem Restoration Plan.
If approved, the corps will pay for 65 percent of the cost of the project, while the city will pay the remainder of the cost. That means Gainesville will be responsible for $649,495 of the $1,855,699 required to complete the restoration.
As part of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements, each year the city is required by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District to evaluate and select restoration projects.
"Since we're required to implement restoration projects, when we can get state or federal funding to help us then that's all the more reason to do them," said Horace Gee, environmental services manager for Gainesville.
This would be the second of two major projects identified by the city with input from the Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Environment Protection Division to improve water quality of Flat Creek since the process began in 2006. The creek eventually empties into Lake Lanier.
"We went through basically evaluating and graded the stream conditions of Flat Creek, the whole basin, and then they selected the projects and prioritized them based on the need and the effectiveness and the impending result from any restoration work," Gee said.
The corps identified an area downstream of Flat Creek from Dorsey Street to the area behind Hardy Chevrolet on Browns Bridge Road, an estimated 2,500 linear feet of stream.
Gee said the entire 2,500-foot section will not necessarily be restored, but the project will focus on sections within that area.
"Basically it was picking out places where over the years and because of the heavy flows of stuff down Flat Creek, it really eroded the banks and caused some trees to be undercut and washed out and falling into the creek," Gee said.
The majority of adjacent property along that section of the creek is already owned by the city, Gee said.
The restoration project will involve removing any unnecessary debris, improving the stream banks to recreate a natural habitat, removing invasive plants, plating native species of vegetation and improving stream flow to improve aquatic life.
The first project involved restoration of a stream behind the Public Safety Complex on Queen City Boulevard. That project included installing a retention pond to control the volume of water flow down Flat Creek.
A partial reason the project improved the stream behind the Public Safety Complex was for visual purposes. But the area of Flat Creek the project will soon begin working on is mainly intended to improve water quality because it is primarily in a wooded area not visible from the road.
"This part is more of a rural setting," Gee said.
"There's very little foot traffic in that area. It's not really accessible to the general public, but as far as the water quality improvement it's going to be just as important, if not more, than what we've done behind the Public Safety Facility."
A decision from the Corps of Engineers is expected by the end of its fiscal year Friday. Gee said he is "about 99 percent sure" that the grant will be approved to begin the project.
Once approved, the Flat Creek restoration will tentatively begin Oct. 1 and is expected to be completed in two years, Gee said.