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Gainesville may spend $670,600 on Flat Creek project
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Flat Creek flows south of Atlanta Highway. Gainesville is developing a project with the Army Corps of Engineers that would restore a section of the creek from Dorsey Street to Hilton Drive, including under Atlanta Highway.

The Times recently explored the length of Flat Creek. Read the story and view an interactive map with photos.

Gainesville is looking to pay the Army Corps of Engineers $670,600 to kickstart what will be the largest stream restoration project the city has done on long-troubled Flat Creek.

The city is developing a project with the corps that would restore about 3,300 feet of Flat Creek from Dorsey Street to Hilton Drive, including under Atlanta Highway.
The project's total cost would be $1.9 million, with the corps contributing more than $1.2 million.

Gainesville's share would be paid for through the public utilities department's capital projects fund.

Horace Gee, Gainesville’s environmental services administrator, said the project could start in late summer or early fall, which is about the time a restoration project around the Gainesville Mill north of Queen City Parkway is wrapping up.

In the newest project, work will focus more on water flow and ecosystem restoration, including, as with previous work, “changing the meandering of the stream to prevent undercutting,” Gee has said.
“There won’t be as much beautification as we’ve done ... and making it a community park setting or whatever,” he said.

Financing the city’s part of the project is an issue that must be approved first by Gainesville City Council, which discussed the matter in a work session Thursday morning.

The project got high praise from council members.

“All I want to say is hallelujah,” George Wangemann said. “This has been a long time in coming. When I first started on the council, we had a lot of complaints about the water quality in Flat Creek, especially down on Dorsey Street near the Fieldale plant.

“The money just wasn’t there (at the time) and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it, and I think people gave up on that. Time has a way of healing things and I think that’s what’s happened here.”

Over the years, Flat Creek, which runs 6 miles from downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier, has suffered from pollution and contamination brought about by everything from litter to sewage spills, leading to a designation as an “impaired” waterway.

Worsening the situation is that the waterway serves as the catch basin for a 7-square-mile highly populated urban watershed. So, rain can push everything from plastic bottles to fertilizer into the creek.

The creek also has drawn the keen eye of private organizations, including Lake Lanier Association and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. They also have applauded the city’s work but say much work still needs to be done.

“There needs to be a huge concerted effort among residential property owners, the industries, the city, the state and groups like ours that have an interest in the river,” said Duncan Hughes, headwaters outreach director with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

The project near the century-old Gainesville Mill calls for converting the old fire pond on the property into a regional detention pond, resembling work done on the body of water next to the Public Safety Complex off Queen City Parkway.

Gee said getting the project with the corps secured has been a long, involved process.

“Finally, we busted the balloon,” Gee said. “We got the funding in the bank and we’re ready to move forward. It’s going to pay dividends for our community, so I’m looking forward to it.”