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Hall County, Gainesville will begin Flat Creek upgrades in 2009
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Flat Creek Watershed restoration priorities have been narrowed down and implementation should begin in 2009, said Betsy Massie, a project manager with CH2M Hill at Tuesday’s public hearing at the Gainesville Civic Center.

The environmental engineers hired by the Gainesville and Hall County governments outlined priority projects that could improve the ecological integrity of the Flat Creek watershed, which has been compromised by development and pollution.

In 2004, Flat Creek was listed as one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s "impaired waterways" for its high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria.

No local residents attended the meeting, most likely because of Tuesday’s storms, but Massie said she did not foresee anyone having problems with the proposed projects because they will be beneficial to the public.

Gainesville and Hall County formed a partnership to restore the Flat Creek Watershed, which lies equally between the municipalities.

To narrow down the project list in order for the city and county governments to get the most "bang for their buck," the engineers met with Gainesville and Hall County officials as well as officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine which projects were a priority.

Stream restoration projects were reduced from 42 to 12, and best management practices went down to 16 from 24.

"These projects range for a wide variety of opportunities," Massie said, "and represent different levels of impairment and correction."

Projects are broken down into five levels, with one being the least extensive and five being very complicated.

Massie said an example of a level one project is removing invasive species, such as privet, from a stream buffer.

Most of the prioritized projects on Flat Creek will be in the two to three range, Massie said, and the cost of restorations will vary.

"It depends from project to project," Massie said, and could cost anywhere from $125,000 to more than $2 million, with an average price tag between $250,000 and $500,000.

All of the surrounding counties in a 16-county area are undertaking similar watershed improvements, Massie said.

"Nearly everyone is in some phase of implementation," she said. "The bigness depends on how urbanized they are."

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