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Flat Creek restoration project hits halfway mark
Work could be completed by October
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Crews continue the Flat Creek project Monday afternoon near Marler Street behind the old Gainesville Mill. The creek is being diverted from its current tree-lined path through the pond, which is currently being renovated.

Work is about halfway done on a $1 million restoration of Flat Creek as it flows through an industrial section of Gainesville.

Officials have revised an earlier projection the work would be finished by early July, now saying it could be finished by late September or early October. It turns out that harsh winter weather was a bigger factor than expected.

Crews couldn’t start on the project until 2 1/2 months after the city gave its green light on the work, said Horace Gee, Gainesville’s environmental services administrator.

Last October, Gainesville City Council voted to award a $1 million contract to SpecPro Environmental Services of Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the project.

The later completion “will work out pretty good since it’s best to do (shrub and tree) plantings in the fall, so they’ve got the winter to take root,” Gee said.

The project calls for turning an old fire pond that once served the century-old Gainesville Mill off Marler Street and Georgia Avenue into a pedestrian-friendly amenity featuring sidewalks and benches.

The final product will resemble work done on the pond next to the Public Safety Complex off Queen City Parkway.

But another key aspect is rechanneling Flat Creek and removing old concrete streambed.

Officials hope the work will not only improve the area’s appearance but provide better flood control and improve water quality.

Flat Creek has long been an environmental issue for Gainesville-Hall County.

A 7-mile waterway that winds its way from downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier west of McEver Road, it has been listed on the state Environmental Protection Division’s Impaired Waters List.

City officials are keeping a close eye on the project’s impact on the water quality.

“We are testing just below the construction site every week,” Gee said.

The water has higher fecal coliform, or bacteria found in the gut of warm-blooded animals, because of area feed mills, he said.

“Every sample we’ve taken over the last eight months has been representative of what it was (previously),” Gee said.

Duncan Hughes, headwaters outreach director for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said the environmental group also is keeping an eye on the restoration project.

One of the group’s Neighborhood Water Watch sites is off Georgia Avenue, just downstream of the project area.

“It is expected that there will be short-term water quality disturbances ... with projects like this, but the long-term goals of reducing peak flows and improving aquatic habitat are worthy,” Hughes said.