Environmental permit hiccup costs Dalton, Ga., about $20,000

Environmental permit hiccup costs Dalton, Ga., about $20,000

December 26th, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Confusion in the permitting process cost Dalton, Ga., about $20,000.

The Dalton City Council approved extra funding to Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon at its Dec. 18 meeting, after a representative from the engineering and architecture firm said workers spent an extra five weeks seeking a stream buffer variance from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The extra 200 hours of work cost the city about $23,000.

The city needed the variance to build Haig Mill Lake Park, which will include fishing docks, a running track and a play area for children. Construction began this summer, and Mayor Dennis Mock said the park is scheduled to open in August. He was not concerned about the extra spending, telling the Times Free Press the city is still on target for the park's $5 million budget.

Dennis Mock

Dennis Mock

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"It's kind of standard operating procedure for any big project," he said. "We're always going to find something fell through the cracks."

Workers need a stream buffer variance when they're working close to the water. The idea is that they will show what kind of work they're doing so environmentalists can make sure a project does not damage the water. For example, dirt from construction can roll into the stream, jeopardizing a fish population.

A Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon representative blamed the extra work (and extra spending) on the DNR before last week's meeting. In a filing that outlined what happened, the worker wrote that the company applied for its variance in October 2016.

"The variance package was complete and should have required one revision," the representative wrote.

About two weeks later, a DNR employee said the application needed to be revised. The company worker wrote that most of the information had been supplied but they needed to change the presentation format.

The company representative wrote that nothing was heard from the DNR for seven weeks aside from one email explaining the agency was still reviewing the application. From January through March, according to the company, the DNR asked for more revisions, and in April it said the project would require stream credits. This is essentially an environmental requirement that tells builders to preserve or enhance one part of a stream to make up for the work they're doing in another section.

"The DNR contact apologized for the lateness of the notice," the company representative wrote. "GA DNR had these plans since the initial submission in October."

The DNR approved the stream buffer variance in July.

Asked about this process, DNR spokesman Kevin Chambers said the company's application was incomplete.

He said an agency staffer told the company in November 2016 part of the application's front page and a section on erosion control plans wasn't fully filled out. Under mitigation, Chambers said, the company wrote "not applicable."

Chambers said the application needed to be authorized for buffer impacts, such as a new sewer line.

Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon Vice President Doyle Cox did not return a call seeking comment last week.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.