By MARINA WATERS
In two years, Boone Lake is expected to begin filling back up — but when it does, a whole lot of debris could come with it.
To combat the problem early, the Boone Lake Association requested $650,000 for two skimmers at the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The HEW committee approved the request on Wednesday, followed by the budget committee on Thursday.
“The bottom line is (the debris causes) a lot of liability risk,” Tom McKee, who serves as volunteer legal counsel from BLA, said at the HEW meeting. “Because of BLA, you all have a situation where you all, as well as Johnson City and everyone else, can sit there and say, ‘We do provide assistance. We contract BLA to provide assistance which they have provided successfully for 30 years.’ By supporting BLA, you all are protecting yourselves from a liability standpoint.”
The BLA requested the money come from the county’s portion of TVA’s economic impact dollars given to local governments effected by the lake construction. Kosmider said between the entities, TVA currently shells out about $1.7 million in impact dollars.
McKee said the association’s plan was to make the Boone Lake cleanup a “regional concept” by combining Washington County’s efforts with that of Johnson City and Sullivan County. Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, who was also at Wednesday’s HEW meeting, said Johnson City has agreed to pay its half of the request.
“We wanted this to be a regionalism concept,” McKee said. “We wanted to give the county and the city the opportunity to step forward and say, ‘We are doing this on our own.’ Rather than us coming in and asking you all to do this, we wanted to see if you all wanted to do this project because both (Washington County) Mayor Grandy and (Sullivan County) Mayor Venable have made that their two big priorities. If there was a regionalism asset, it’s this lake.”
BLA members said the equipment is vital to removing everything from chained logs in the bottom of the lake to tires and refrigerators found in the water — and creating a safer place for the community.
“The safety issue is probably the predominant issue,” Kosmider said at the HEW Committee meeting. “If we don’t do that now, it’s going to be a bigger issue.”
For commissioners, the concern was how long the debris would impact the lake.
“When Boone Lake comes up, it’s not going to be the Boone Lake we remember, I’m sure,” Commissioner Greg Matherly said at Wednesday’s meeting. “How do we get there?”
Kosmider said he felt combined efforts from the local government entities was a step in the right direction, but that getting the lake back in shape will take the BLA’s continued work.
“We look at it as a regional partnership,” Kosmider said. “We’re looking to the municipalities to take the lead. We do the work — we’ve been doing the work for 30 years — but its an opportunity we think for regionalism to bring the lake back more safely and more quickly.”
The Washington County Commission will vote on the request at its regularly scheduled Monday, Dec. 16, meeting at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center located at 108 W Jackson Blvd. in Jonesborough.