Update 2023-03-27: Correction: Pickleball courts to be on other side of Two Mile Branch from 2007-proposed detention pond 2023-03-07.
The City of Valdosta has planned to do something about trash in Two Mile Branch since at least 2007, as part of a Watershed Management Plan, that appeared to grow out of a GA-EPD action. Most of those planned actions do not seem to have happened, despite a table of projects and an implementation schedule. And despite some of them turning up again as merely “proposed” in a 2010 plan. At least one of them will never happen, because the city has found a source of funds for a completely different project on the same site.
I urge the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) not to be satisfied with plans.
Actions are what count.
Two Mile Branch: plans are not enough
I commend the City of Valdosta for its plans for a trash trap on Two Mile Branch at Berkley Drive and at Oak Street. There is some reason to believe these actions will happen, thanks to City Engineer Ben O’Dowd.
I urge anyone who can to come to the Two Mile Branch cleanup between those locations,
8-11 AM this Saturday, March 25, 2023:
First let’s go back to 2007 to see why plans are not enough: only actions count.
This map includes as BMPs (Best Management Practices) detention ponds on Two Mile Branch at Berkley Drive (15) and above Oak Street (18), the same locations where Valdosta is now planning, sixteen years later, to finally do something. The map even includes additional ponds below St. Johns School (27) and on Canna Drive (18). I see no sign any of these projects actually happened.
Figure 15. Proposed Structure BMP Projects
Here are those projects ranked in a table on page 50:
Table 10. Stormwater BMP Project Rankings
2/3 McKey Park near Roosevelt Drive
18 City owned parcel corner Gonwood Circle & Canna Drive
15 City owned parcel corner of Berkley Drive & Canna Drive
27 St John Catholic Church near Berkley Road entrance
Table 10. Stormwater BMP Project Rankings
And here they are in an implementation schedule on page 60:
Table 12. Implementation Schedule
Project 2/3 McKey Park (Oak Street) was to be finished by 2011.
Projects 15 and 18 (Berkley Drive and Gonwood Circle) were to be finished by 2012.
Project 27 (St. John Catholic Church) was supposed to be finished by 2017, as part of “approximately 5 BMPs every five years”.
Table 12. Implementation Schedule
Go see for yourself how many of those four projects were completed. I find none of them.
Property acquisition could not have been a problem, since the City owns all the relevant acreage, and did back in 2007, as the WMP noted.
Valdosta City Property, Two Mile Branch –Lowndes County Tax Assessors
Two of these projects that were supposed to be finished by 2011 (Oak Street) and 2012 (Berkley Drive) turn up again three years after the 2007 WMP in Valdosta’s 2010 Stormwater Master Plan, 4.6 Two Mile Branch, on page 4-109, emphasis added:
Alternative TM3 – Berkley Drive RSF
“The City requested evaluation of the possibility of a RSF located upstream of Mill Pond to capture sediment and litter that would otherwise be deposited in Mill Pond. While an in-line facility would be the best option to serve this purpose, difficulty in permitting an in-line facility makes implementation unlikely. Therefore, an off-line RSF is proposed. Based on an evaluation of adjacent properties, topography, and stormwater conveyance systems, the proposed location of the facility is immediately upstream of Berkley Drive and north of the Two Mile Branch main channel, as shown on Figure 4.6.5.”
Section 4. Withlacoochee Basin
Nevermind the 2007 project was supposed to be finished in a couple of years, the 2010 SWMP kicks it back to “requested evaluation of the possibility. RSF I believe is Regional Stormwater Facility.
At least the 2010 SWMP explicitly says “to capture sediment and litter”, after the 2007 WMP danced around the litter subject for this location.
But go look for yourself. Do you see a pond upstream of Berkley Drive, between Two Mile Branch and Canna Drive?
Figure 4.6.5 Alternative TM3: Regional Stormwater Facility near Berkley Road
The Oak Street project also turns up in the 2010 SWMP, nevermind it was supposed to be finished a year later. This one is also kicked back, to “proposed to be constructed”.
On page 4-113:
A 1.6-acre RSF is also proposed to be constructed. This facility consists of an offline retention basin and is proposed to be located upstream of N. Oak Street in the City-owned McKey Park. Primarily, the RSF needs to be constructed to provide additional storage and peak flow attenuation in order to prevent increased water levels downstream of Patterson Street, as a result of the increased conveyance at the Patterson Street crossing. A secondary benefit of this facility is that it will treat and attenuate 173 acres of previously untreated tributary area, which is fully developed residential and commercial property.
Go see if you see a pond upstream of Oak Street, south of Two Mile Branch, north of Roosevelt Drive. I don’t.
Alternative TM4: Patterson Street Culvert Improvement (two 5 ft H x 8 ft W) +
And you won’t ever see a pond there, since that is exactly where on March 7, 2023 “Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority (VLPRA) celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project through the city of Valdosta. Soon the authority will open 12 new pickleball courts.” according to WALB TV. Which announcement did not seem to include anything about containing trash from those pickleball courts nor from the tennis courts already in McKey Park.
Valdosta could have proposed a SPLOST item for building these ponds. But it didn’t.
Instead, Valdosta downgraded the Berkley Drive and Oak Street ponds from the 2007 implementation schedule to in 2010 “requested evaluation of the possibility” and “proposed to be constructed”.
On the Oak Street site Valdosta in 2023 broke ground for an entirely different project that makes any pond there impossible.
Most of the rest of the projects in the 2007 WMP implementation schedule did not even appear again in the 2010 SWMP.
So, GA-EPD, please do not accept just plans from the City of Valdosta. Only actions count.
And Valdosta seems to act in response to GA-EPD. See the 2007 WMD, page 5:
The study also focuses on sediment and floatable debris sources within the watershed as these have been identified as potential problems.
Steps were taken to improve water quality in the watershed after it was listed on the Georgia 303(d) impaired waters list but it appears little has been done to formally document these activities or to monitor their effectiveness.
I could cite further instances of Valdosta reacting to prodding by GA-EPD, but this post is getting long enough.
I hope the point is clear: don’t assume Valdosta will do something just because they publish a plan.
Although in this case, Valdosta has not actually published a plan for how to fix its trash problem. See below.
Again, I invite everybody to come to the Two Mile Branch Cleanup this Saturday:
But cleanups are not enough. They are like cleaning up sewage after it has already spilled.
Again, I commend Valdosta for the plans for trash traps at Berkley Drive and Oak Street. Trash traps are a good step, like manhole covers and sewage pump stations.
But they are just bandaids until the upstream trash sources are dealt with.
Including “enforcement of current policies and ordinances” as recommended on page 12 of the Two Mile Branch Watershed Management Plan, City of Valdosta, Georgia, November 2007.
That’s in a discussion of the 2006 adoption of the Greater Lowndes 2030 Comprehensive Plan, noting:
One of the issues raised in the land use portion of the community assessment was the large amount of land dedicated to parking, which leads to stormwater runoff challenges. Opportunities for improvement include shared parking and the use of pervious pavement. Under the environmental portion of the plan, the assessment showed that Valdosta had adopted the Part V environmental ordinances mandated by the State as well as floodplain regulations….
Valdosta’s current ordinances directly address trash and litter on parking lots in Chapter 82 – SOLID WASTE, which requires among other things:
82-1.(b)(5) The owner, occupant and lessee of all property, including, but not limited to, parking lots, not otherwise described herein, jointly and severally are required to remove all litter from any source, from their property and to place same in appropriate containers. Vacant lots, borders, embankments, fences, walls, driveways and sidewalks shall be kept free of litter.
82-1.(b)(9) Commercial sites with on-site parking shall, at a minimum, have its parking area cleaned or swept as needed to prevent an accumulation of litter and to maintain a neat and orderly appearance. Furthermore, said sites shall provide and maintain litter receptacles that are strategically placed throughout the parking lot for individuals using same to properly deposit litter and other refuse. The number of receptacles shall be determined as follows:
One receptacle for establishments with one to 25 parking spaces;
Two receptacles for establishments with 26 to 50 parking spaces;
One additional receptacle for each additional 100 parking spaces at any location.
Note “and strategically placed”. That doesn’t mean just under the awning in front of the stores. It means also down near Hightower Creek where I videoed the Mayor back on December 15, 2022.
Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson at Hightower Creek 2022-12-15
There are still no trash cans “strategically placed” in that parking lot down by Hightower Creek.
And no trash cans at all in most parking lots in Valdosta.
The city’s own parking lots don’t have them, including the ones directly across the street from City Hall.
We’re tired of trash in Valdosta creeks being a health hazard and floating down the Withlacoochee River. The City of Valdosta should be tired of that, too.
Map: Two Mile Branch in the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT).
Valdosta has the same trash problem in the Alapaha River basin, but in this post I’m focussing on Two Mile Branch as an example.
How about set an example, City of Valdosta, by putting trash cans in your own parking lots?
And then educate businesses about the city ordinances.
And enforce them if businesses don’t clean up their acts.
Meanwhile, yes, please, more trash traps.
And no measures are perfect, so cleanups will still be necessary. But fewer cleanups will be needed with upstream measures in place.
Then there’s still more that can be done:
Solid waste management hierarchy
For much more about the trash problem, see:
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!