Save Henderson Mill Creek

Save the Henderson Mill Creek Floodplain / Wetlands

Comments on PCG FoIA Documents

The FoIA documents for Section1 of the PCG are very long and dense. There also seem to be some important issues that were either resolved in odd ways or not resolved at all. Below are our thoughts on these items.

1. Expensive:

Section1 cost $16million total. Keep in mind that Brookhaven’s entire yearly budget is 84million, with 36million allotted for roads and only 11million from SPLOST funds. $16million to Brookhaven is a lot of money. No FoIA docs about funding sources, but a news article stated it was from “hotel/motel taxes.” The only FoIA funding doc was a $100k grant for lighting (yep, just for the lights).

MORE INFO NEEDED: Official documentation of funding source(s)

2. Riparian Buffer Waivers:

GA DNR Watershed is only involved with the 25’ riparian buffer waiver, and the reality is that much of concrete and the majority of the ground clearing was done outside the 25’ area. Although the GA Watershed sounded pretty careful within it’s 25’ limit - those negotiations with Brookhaven/Corblu stretched over a year – the actual result of the encroachments was not. Although we saw Watershed comments about not wanting concrete and wanting “multi-trophic riparian vegetation” to replace what might be cleared, that is not what actually occurred – particularly on the Druid Hills end.

Additionally, Watershed did not seem at all concerned about tree loss - their focus is only on dirt/silt/runoff/bank stabilization. Not on habitat, not on tree cover, not on the floodplain.

Lastly, the waiver request included some “interesting” statements such as: “The project is located within a highly developed urban area, adjacent to roads, and surrounded by residential/urban area. Due to the project’s location, and minimal tree removal previously mentioned, terrestrial habitat, food chain, and migration corridor will not be impacted by the proposed multi-use trail.” We believe this claim is flat-out false.

The documentation did acknowledge that there would be 3.36 acres of concrete laid within the total 29 acre site. That means 11% of the floodplain site is now covered in concrete. We saw no mention of the additional percentage of the floodplain habitat that would be cleared in order to plant the mown grass, but looking at the end result….it was a lot.

Brookhaven is responsible for the additional 50’ riparian buffer and that’s where much of the clearing/concrete is, and Brookhaven did not require any written waiver request for the project. Most of the riparian objections would lie in the county/city jurisdiction, not with the GA Watershed, and we see nothing about the Brookhaven waiver other than that a written request was unnecessary and an exemption reference to Brookhaven’s “14-152(1)f code”.

On follow-up, DNR made it clear that they were not responsible for monitoring and ensuring that their requirements were met. Brookhaven was responsible. We see nothing in Brookhaven’s documents about handling this. This might explain all the manicured grass despite DNR’s request of “multi-trophic riparian vegetation.”

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: What Brookhaven’s 14-152(1)f code? Is it typical that the county/city riparian buffer variances are granted without even a formal written waiver request/response? Is there any way to get DNR to double-check what Brookhaven is allowing?

3. Habitat Clearing:

A pre-construction aerial photo showed that this area had a full “forest-type” tree cover prior to construction, so yes a lot of trees and vegetation were cleared. This included removal of (8) specimen trees (diameters 26”-42"). The Kaizen schematic stated “REMOVAL OF TREES FROM 100 YEAR FLOOD PLAIN PROHIBITED” and requested a variance. We saw no FoIA documentation regarding, let alone granting, this variance. Planning documents also stated that the required post-construction tree density was 120dbh (diameter at breast height) inches per acre, which we think is very low considering the area used to have a forest canopy.

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: Who granted the variance for flood plain tree removal? Where did the requirement of only 120dbh" per acre come from?

4. FEMA approval:

There was 1 page of a multi-page email to FEMA requesting approval of the project, but we see nothing back from FEMA..

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: What happened with the FEMA approval? Is this related to the regulation about not removing trees from a floodplain?

5. Wildlife:

GA DNR/Wildlife Resource Division said that 3 protected species have been found in the area, and they stated they were concerned about impacting habitats. Brookhaven declined to do an aquatic survey but stated they would do a fauna survey. However, the FoIA documents did not include any such survey. We also see no follow-up from the DNR Wildlife Resource Division.

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: What happened with this missing fauna survey?

6. It is a Road:

A document from GA DNR stated that the “project is considered road construction and so is exempt from the Erosion and Sedimentation Act as per 12-7-17(9).” So much for all of the NextDoor arguments about calling the construction a bike road.

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: What is the Erosion and Sedimentation Act 12-7-17(9)?

7. GSWCC (GA Soil&Water Conservation Commission):

This agency is evidently not responsible for reviewing the plan.

8. Environmental Assessment (EA):

Brookhaven completed an EA for an NPS LWCF grant application (for 100k to cover the lighting). In our opinion, it was a very unimpressive document consisting of a lot of statements about how people/children would use the bike road. The document states that because additional lighting will extend access to non-daylight hours and make the route safer, lighting “is considered to be a positive Environmental Impact.” There is only a checklist for what we consider actual environmental concerns, and no supporting documentation for the checked items.

9. Land Purchases:

Brookhaven obtained (30) properties along what looks like a stream feeding into NFPC starting just north of Briarwood Rd up to about Fernwood Park, via some sort of “property transfer” from Dekalb. It included properties on Drew Valley Rd, Burch Circle, Poplar Springs, Nesbitt Drive, Bynum Drive, Dresden Drive. We have no idea what Brookhaven is planning to do with these, but we’re guessing it’s for an extension of the concrete bike roads through these neighborhoods alongside a stream. FEMA approved the property transfer.

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: What is the purpose of these property transfers and how is it connected to the PCG plans? Why did it require FEMA approval?

10. ACOE (Army Corps of Engineers):

The project was in the “non-reporting” category and so PATH/Brookhaven didn’t have to work with ACOE at all.

CURRENT UNKNOWNS: Why was this construction considered “non-reporting”?

We want them to use Flowers Road.