An improper repair to a rock dam by DeKalb County on the South River near Sugar Creek Golf Course is causing erosion.
“That dam has got to go,” said Jacqueline Echols, president of the South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA). “They’ve got to fix what they’ve screwed up.”
The partial dam, made of large rocks, pools water for the county to irrigate Sugar Creek Golf Course, according to Burke Brennan, chief communications officer for DeKalb County. Since the 1960s, the county has had a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to divert water from the South River for the golf course.
As part of some routine maintenance, the dam was improperly repaired, Brennan said.
“We’re basically fixing our fix,” Brennan said. “We’re aware of it. We’re in close communication with the Army Corps of Engineers.”
The county’s infrastructure group is working with the corps of engineers to correct it the dam, Brennan said.
Doug Denton, vice president of SRWA and supervisor with the DeKalb Soil & Water Conservation District, said the problem was caused by “a county department ignorant of environmental permitting and basic hydrological science.”
“Water went around the dam and eventually eroded the stream bank,” Denton said.
Brennan said the county acknowledges that there is erosion at the site.
“We brought it to the attention of [the Army Corps of Engineers] in August,” Brennan said.
The county will work with its purchasing department to fund the necessary repairs once the proper fix is designed, Brennan said.
Although Denton said it is difficult to estimate, he believes approximately “150 dump truck loads of river bank soil eroded and washed downstream.”
“The South River, for its size and volume, is one of the most polluted rivers in Georgia,” Denton said. “This unfortunate event has placed further stress on downstream aquatic habitats and wildlife which depend on such food sources. Silt and mud accumulation also makes it difficult for boaters to have easy passage on the South River.”
Denton said the DeKalb Soil & Water Conservation District “has for several years strongly recommended to the office of the CEO that various departments must communicate regarding environmental plan review and permitting.
“Our state-mandated reviews of DeKalb’s erosion and sedimentation program have pointed out weaknesses in such communication, and what happened on the banks of Sugar Creek Golf Course strengthens District assessments,” Denton said.
In addition to improving internal communication, Denton said the county needs to allocate funds to river bank stabilization and restoration.