Gainesville officials are moving forward on plans to restore an eroded, underground portion of Flat Creek.
Environmental engineers will soon have a plan on how to "daylight" or unearth about 250 feet of the creek, restore eroded stream banks and restore the natural, meandering progression of the creek.
The restoration work, slated for the creek’s headwaters, is one project environmental engineers recently identified in a two-year study to create an improvement plan for the impaired creek.
The study, completed by the environmental engineering firm CH2M Hill, identified 12 stream restoration projects and 16 best management practices as priorities in restoring the 25-mile creek.
The Gainesville City Council recently authorized CH2M Hill to start designing the first restoration projects, which will focus on returning Flat Creek’s headwaters near the city’s planned public safety facility to a more natural state.
About 400 feet of the stream in that portion of the creek, stretching from the Public Utilities building on Queen City Parkway to Pine Street, is underground or piped through box culverts, said Gainesville’s Environmental Monitoring Coordinator Brian Wiley.Also, the stream banks in the area are "heavily eroded" because of the storm surges that send water rushing off parking lots and into Flat Creek, Wiley said. The engineering firm will design a way to return those stream banks to their natural, sloped states and prevent further flooding and erosion, Wiley said.
City officials also have asked the engineers to look at the possibility of creating a regional storm water detention facility near the creek to head off storm water runoff problems.
Most of the Midtown area is covered in impervious, or paved, surfaces, making storm water detention and runoff a difficult situation for developers, said City Manager Bryan Shuler. To help attract future private developers, the city wants to see if it is possible to build a regional storm water detention pond that could serve multiple developments along with the city’s public safety facility, Shuler said.
City officials decided to restore the headwaters of the creek ahead of other identified projects because the city’s recent purchase of property in the area for a future public safety facility made it an easier project to approach, Wiley said.
"The city owns a lot of property through there already, so it’s easier to deal with just one kind of owner instead of multiple owners," Wiley said.
Beginning Flat Creek’s restoration in the stream’s headwaters is also smart environmentally, Wiley said.
"In terms of a pollution problem, if you head off contamination or pollution issues in the headwaters portion it’s easier to deal with an issue than it is to try to track it back from several miles downstream to try to follow it back up upstream to determine where it’s coming from," Wiley said
Flat Creek runs through the Midtown district, an area where city officials are planning a "Rails to Trails" project on the former Norfolk Southern property and construction of a new public safety facility. Officials also are hoping to attract future private redevelopment.
"It would be easier to go ahead and do some stream bank restoration and some improvement projects in that area, because it’s going through a massive overhaul already," Wiley said.
The city contracted with CH2M Hill for $177,896 to design the restoration and look at the feasibility of the regional detention facility. Restoration work could begin in the next year, Wiley said.