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State gives go-ahead to stream relocation project, opposers express disappointment

Nearly two months after dozens spoke out against the possible relocation of a portion of stream to build a gas station off Highway 11-E, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a permit allowing the waterway to be moved.
The applicants, John Molder and Sonja Bailey, requested the state water quality permit in order to construct a service station and convenience store on the northeast corner of New Hope Road and the highway.
The proposed development requires the relocation of 245 feet of a stream on the property and impacts .094 acres of wetland.
Last week, after spending weeks reviewing the application and comments made during the Jan. 7 public hearing, TDEC officials announced it will allow the stream to be relocated.
In a detailed document, TDEC addressed several concerns raised by citizens opposed to the stream relocation, including its impact on Little Limestone Creek, the loss of wetland and stream resource values, potential flooding problems and contamination issues.
In response to comments regarding the negative impact to Little Limestone Creek – the stream is a tributary of the creek – TDEC leaders said the proposed relocation of the unnamed tributary “should result in a more stable channel morphology” and went on to say “the resource values of the westerly stream are expected to increase with its relocation.”
Several citizens commented about the loss of wetland , however TDEC said the wetlands impacted by the project are “low functioning” systems and the impact will be minimal. In fact, leaders believe the project will “reduce the erosion and widening that is now occurring.”
Several citizens questioned whether the project would result in a loss of stream resource values, to which TDEC said the division believes the relocation “should result in a more stable and natural channel morphology” and the resource values of the stream “are expected to increase with its relocation.”
TDEC addressed the potential for additional flooding by noting federal government regulations that require the applicant to model the relocation in a way that will not cause additional flooding.
Meanwhile, concerns of contamination to the stream from the proposed car wash, leaks from gas tanks and runoff from the gas station are not within TDEC’s “scope of review” and were not a part of considering the stream relocation, TDEC officials said.
Those individuals who made public comment at January’s hearing now have the right to appeal TDEC’s decision.
Local environmentalist Frances Lamberts is among those already considering an appeal.
“I’m utterly disappointed. I think the state did a poor job,” Lamberts said of TDEC’s decision. “They discounted any responsibility for considering what comes out of allowing this. To just simply discount what’s happening to the water is unacceptable.”
Lamberts called TDEC’s actions “slovenly,” saying there were “shoddy errors” throughout the agency’s work and was “dismissive” of citizens interest in preservation.
Like Lamberts, local resident Jeff Dupre also expressed disappointment in the decision.
“This is not the right spot for that kind of business,” Dupre said. “There is an opportunity for an appeal. Right now, we’re trying to decide if we’ve got the wherewithal to go to Nashville and appeal this.”
Engineer Todd Wood, who spoke at the public hearing on behalf of the applicants, said on Monday that TDEC’s approval was the first step in a lengthy process.
“The first major hurdle is over,” Wood said. “Without that, there’d be no point in moving forward.”
As far as the next step, Wood said the applicants will have to garner a grading permit from the Town of Jonesborough as well as a storm water permit for construction from the state before the physical relocation of the stream could begin.