Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll spoke about the need for watershed-wide planning to reduce flooding and provide water for agriculture with distributed flood containment reservoirs. He referred to the materials he sent in advance as well as to some additional data about water quality measurements upstream and downstream of selected points. And he sent an update the next day.
Tim Carroll noted that one thing that was clear from the Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson’s 2010 presentation to the Suwannee-Satilla Water Council about the 2009 flood was that the drainage basin study proposed by that Council (which completed its report and disbanded) still needs to be completed. For that purpose, Hanson had just sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting assistance. Apparently they have partial answer, and they’re also talking the state.
Carroll said that with the renewed attention to flooding problems after the 2013 flood of the previous weeks and funding coming together for some of the water control projects Valdosta had long been working on there would be grant application and field work opportunities for a group such as WWALS.
He stated that urban growth is the single biggest cause of stormwater flooding problems, yet no funds have been available to rural cities and counties to do anything about it. He gave an example of a Valdosta stormwater reservoir which was not overflowing during the recent storm, yet flooding was coming up from the Withlacoochee River.
Local land development codes are already dealing with the problem by requiring stormwater retention. There are costs to the developer for this, but compared to the costs of cleaning up after a flood, they are not large, and and there were other advantages.
He talked about economic advantages of our waterways through recreation, for example in access to the Alapaha River in Lowndes County, maybe through a park. He noted such advantages can become degraded through silting up with sediment from urban runoff.
Regarding Valdosta recently becoming famous for water quality all the way through Florida to the Gulf, he passed out data sheets showing that during the flooding water quality samplings above and below the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant generally showed better quality below the plant than above. How was that possible? He said either the contaminants were settling to the bottom, or more likely the floodwaters diluted the contaminants. He said the contaminants were about 3% by volume of the flowing river water.
There were questions about when and where the water quality sampling was done. Quality seemed worse on the earlier dates during the flood period, which he said was probably because upstream rain hadn’t flowed down to the WWTP yet. Who took the samples? Same person all the time? Each person at the same place? He said he didn’t know and would get back to us. He sent the answer later.
There were two exceptions that had higher contaminant readings, one of them Meadowbrook Drive, where the residents have been complaining. Tim Carroll said Two Mile Branch and Sugar Creek come together behind Creekside and YMCA, carrying Water from upstream, and two sewer lines also come together there.
“The sewers are going to back up regardless,” he said, because when they become submerged in water, older pipes have cracks and holes, and manholes are not watertight, so when stormwater gets in it overwhelms the sewers, including causing sewage to spew out of lower manholes. Plus all that water can overtake a wastewater treatment plant, which happened with the WWTP, but not the other one, the Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which already had been upgraded for larger capacity.
Tim Carroll said we need a total picture of the health of our drainage basin, so we need a study.
Tim Carroll read from the recent city of Valdosta request to the Army Corps of Engineers for a drainage basin study. Heather Brasell asked whether other cities had joined in that request. He said not, although it would be good if they did. Meanwhile there were FEMA funds available, and whoever applied first, the early bird might get the worm.
Heather Brasell asked whether it might be better if other cities would also apply. Tim Carroll said it would, and the Valdosta City Manager, Deputy City Manager of Operations, and Utility Manager (Henry Hicks) were all three up in Atlanta talking about some of this with GA EPD. And the regional water council had started some of this, but unfortunately state funding was cut off, and nothing has happened with that since 2010. However, Valdosta had contacted the regional water council participants.
Gretchen asked whether the RDC, Regional Development Council had been contacted, and Tim Carroll said probably not, although they were part of the previous water council, the RDC had their hands full now.
Bret Wagenhorst said there already were some organizations that were looking at watersheds and maybe they could help; I think he was referring to for example Adopt-A-Stream. Tim Carroll said he remembered from his days on the local Planning Commission that such data got reported to the Corps, so they already had that data.
Gretchen Quarterman said people in Valdosta had complained to her bitterly about the stormwater fee Valdosta is collecting, wondering why the city didn’t use that fee to handle stormwater better. Tim Carroll said the city’s issue was that they were handling stormwater better, but they couldn’t control what comes downstream to the city. Heather Brasell asked whether the fee applied to people outside the city. He said no, it’s a property assessment inside the city, which at his house amounted to about $2.48. Garry Gentry said he was from Tifton, and he wondered if there was coordination between the city and the county government. Tim Carroll answered, “No.” Bret Wagenhorst asked if there was coordination with other counties. Tim said not so far as he was aware.
Garry Gentry wondered whether the county was under the same federal mandates as the city for stormwater management. Tim Carroll said he didn’t think so, but he wasn’t familiar with the county’s codes. I answered that I think the county’s codes do require stormwater retention, but I went to the county’s recent retreat and some of the Commissioners had remarked that they didn’t think they should help pay for upgrades to a wastewater plant for the city, because they didn’t think the city even needed upgrades to the WWTP.
To develop a residential or commercial property in the county, the amount of water running off after cannot be more than before.
I remarked that Valdosta’s problems are a symptom of the bigger problem of watershed-wide damage, and since Valdosta has gathered the data and organized a pitch to do something about it, this is an opportunity to help get something done throughout the WWALS watersheds, which I think is something WWALS wants to be involved in.
“The revenue pyramid is not in our favor,” 65% to federal, 24% to state, only 3% stays with the city of Valdosta.
Heather Brasell asked if there had been coordination with the with the UGA experiment station in Tifton. Tim Caroll said not to his knowledge.
I noted that Valdosta’s more recent presentations had mentioned that stormwater retention ponds could also help with the drought problem, by providing water for livestock and irrigation.
Tim Carroll said retention ponds could be win-win for everyone, as long as funding can be found. He also noted that since 2009 62% of Valdosta’s sewer expenditures have gone to wastewater repairs. And the city has since the original SPLOST I received $167 million of which $100 has been spent on water and sewer.
The forced main project in planning since 2009 is a $32 million project that will eliminate the sewer problems in Sugar Creek and Meadowbrook by moving the sewage via pump to a new trunk line bored under I-75 well outside the flood plain, and it will be brand new so it won’t have holes in it, so it will deal with problems in Meadowbrook, for example. About 90% design completion; good chunk of right of way and easements are already acquired. It was a five year project, but now can be completed by next year, four years ahead of schedule.
Gretchen wondered how Valdosta would pay for the forced main project? Tim Carroll said through a $32 million GEFA loan they already have, which has low interest and little bureaucracy. It’s organized like a line of credit, so they only pay back what they actually borrow. The WWTP plant in design since 2009 is so close to designed and so much of the land is acquired that it may be built and running by 2015.
Garry Gentry asked about lean manufacturing techniques. Tim Carroll said “we absolutely do” and talked about engineering firms that specialize in wastewater systems and the city’s utility director. Plus replacing the 40-year-old WWTP with a new one will bring modern technologies, including cleaner discharge.
Tim Carroll said the water coming out of Valdosta’s newer Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is actually cleaner than the creek water going in.
Lee Allen said about fifteen years ago Tifton put in a great big retention pond and wondered whether Valdosta was going to do anything similar. Tim Carroll said that there are two, Mill Pond, which is very visible, and another behind Target off of Harmond Drive near Home Depot; it handles most of the runoff of the mall area, and it was paid for by the city largely through stormwater fees. He wasn’t sure how big. He sent details later. Lee Allen said the Tifton one is about 100 acres because it was upstream from several elementary schools. Tim Carroll said this one was on Sugar Creek.
Finally, I had to be the spoilsport and call time. Everyone thanked Tim Carroll for presenting.
Here’s a video playlist, including the Tim Carroll presentation and the ensuing boring business meeting:
Reservoirs for control of stormwater –Tim Carroll
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS),
Adel, Cook County, Georgia, 13 March 2013
First, thanks for letting me speak with WWALS last night.
Answer or a couple of questions from last night-
- 25 MG is the capacity of the retention pond behind Target and it does hold all the run from the central mall area.
- 2 technicians from the utilities dept do the water samplings following EPA procedures.
- CDMA has provided the city an estimate of $3M to perform a comprehensive drainage basin study. Which is why we need state or federal dollars.
- We now have one state and one federal rep stepping up to support this study. I think Amy is the state, but do not know just yet who the federal person is.