Gainesville is gearing up to start the first phase of a multiyear, million-dollar-plus project to help with flood protection and restore water quality to a stream leading to troubled Flat Creek.
The city is accepting bids on an effort to widen 800 feet of stream between Georgia and Hancock avenues and turn a pond that once was used for fire protection at the old Gainesville mill into a regional detention pond.
“We’ve already drained it down, but we’ll be increasing the depth of (the pond),” said Horace Gee, the city’s environmental services administrator. “Right now, because of the siltation over the hundred years it’s been there, it’s filled in — it’s only like 3-4 feet deep.”
The pond, originally about 7 feet deep, will be dug out to a depth of 14 feet, Gee said.
It will have a daily pool of about 6 feet, leaving the remaining 7-8 feet to be used for flood protection.
“When we get heavy rains, there’s a lot of flooding over in that area, all the way back to Cargill,” which is off West Ridge Road, Gee said.
With the project, “when we have heavy rains, the majority of the flow will be diverted into the pond, so that it can be released on a more even time frame back into the stream.”
That way, “we can have some hydrologic controls over the velocity of the water.”
Also, the stream isn’t exactly passing through pristine countryside.
“You’ve got the railroad parallel to it, Cargill up above it, two feed mills ... and that adds unwanted nutrients and affects water quality,” Gee said.
“Hopefully, when we get the water so it’s more free-flowing and you don’t have the obstructions in it that it has, it’ll help with that buildup we see from the area.”
The effort has drawn praise from lake and environmental advocacy groups.
Duncan Hughes, headwaters outreach coordinator with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said his group “certainly supports and appreciates Gainesville’s efforts to better manage and control stormwater in the Flat Creek watershed.
“Flat Creek has long failed to meet Georgia’s water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria, and stormwater is a major pollutant delivery mechanism for bacteria and other potentially harmful substances.”
Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, said Gainesville and Hall County “have made significant efforts to rectify and remediate” Flat Creek.
“More work is needed, including community education about water quality issues,” she said.
The first phase is expected to cost $1 million, with the state providing a $405,000 grant and the city paying for the rest.
“We hope to have our contractor ready to go at the time the funds are released from the state (in early June),” Gee said.
The project would take five to six months to complete.
Two more phases are planned, ending at E.E. Butler Parkway with a total of about 1,800 feet of stream restoration.
“We have completed the design of all three phases,” Gee said.
The city can reapply for more state money in October, but regardless, to meet state requirements, Gainesville must do one stream restoration project a year.
Overall project costs could run about $2 million.
“The most important part is getting this regional detention (pond),” Gee said. “That’s why we’re working on the lower end (of the watershed) and working our way up, so we’ve got a way to capture any of the heavy rains.”