Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Public hearing on stream relocation draws a crowd, State gets earful of opposition

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held a public hearing on Thursday to hear comments regarding an application to relocate a portion of a stream on property located on Highway 11-E across from Persimmon Ridge Road.
The applicants, John Molder and Sonja Bailey, are requesting the state water quality permit in order to construct a service station and convenience store on the northeast corner of New Hope Road and Highway 11-E. The proposed development would require the relocation of 245 feet of a stream on the property and would impact .094 acres of wetland.
Two dozen people attended the public hearing despite a bout of winter weather that created dangerous driving conditions by the time the meeting concluded. A handful of those in attendance chose to speak publicly against the stream relocation, airing concerns about potential pollution, possible loss of aquatic life and the unintentional loss of wetlands.
“The scope of this project is very large,” said Jeff Dupre, a Jonesborough resident. “It’s the establishment of a polluting business. We’re going to wind up with a lot of stuff going into that creek that we don’t want.”
Tim Tate, a resident of Meadows Subdivision, which is located directly behind the property in question, said he also had “grave concerns” about the proposed project.
“Things like this will certainly impact the water flow,” said Tate, who questioned whether an environmental impact study had been done on the property.
Jonesborough resident Charles Gutierrez said he was “opposed to any construction near a water source” and expressed concern over “piecemealing” the 4.4 acres of wetlands in that area rather than looking at them as a whole.
“This is one of our last wetlands in Jonesborough,” Gutierrez said. “It should be protected.”
Local environmentalist Frances Lamberts spoke at length about her concerns with the possible relocation of the stream, emphasizing the need for flow data and a stream assessment before a decision is made.
“Without prior data as to what we currently have, we cant really say, and I don’t think TDEC can say, that there won’t be any impact,” Lamberts said.
Robert Mumford, another resident of Meadows subdivision, wondered what the “unintentional” results of the project would be.
“Any time you change a stream, you are liable to do something unintended,” Mumford said. “I worry you’ll drain the wetlands above there.”
Several individuals who spoke expressed concern regarding the project’s proposed car wash while others questioned what would happen to water quality if a gas leak occurred. As it stands, the project map shows four gas pump stations located exactly where the stream currently cuts through.The applicants’ attorney, Todd Wood, spoke on behalf of his clients, explaining the plan and its impact in an attempt to alleviate some of their concerns
He explained that the entire property is approximately 5 acres in size, with .2 acres of wetlands within its boundaries. That .2 acres is a part of 4.4 acres of total wetlands in the surrounding area.
In order to build the gas station, Wood said 245 feet of the 285-foot-long westerly stream needs to be relocated. However, Wood said the stream isn’t what a “lay person” might consider a stream.
“It’s a stream that is maybe about 12 inches deep upstream,” he said, noting that downstream, the body of water becomes more of a “ditch.”
“Where the wetland stops is where it resembles a ditch,” Wood said. “The only time it had water was when it was raining.”
According to the application, the stream will be rerouted into a 310-foot “meandering channel.”
Wood said the relocation of the stream would be beneficial, as it would “provide a better habitat” for aquatic life and it would “take a stream that is not of high quality itself” and make it better. He also said the project includes additional measures to protect the surrounding environment, including a retaining wall and drainage system.
The public comment period will remain open until the end of the business day on Jan. 22.
Following the closing of the comment period, TDEC officials will review the application and determine whether to deny a permit, issue one or issue a conditional permit. Should TDEC issue a permit to the applicants, those individuals who made public comment at last week’s hearing have the right to appeal the decision.