The City of Maryville plans to move forward with the Peach Creek improvement project in compliance with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Peach Creek is a stormwater drainage system. The project is located near West South Hills Drive. Maryville Public Works Director C.E. Goodall originally started work on this project in 2012. Goodall said the project began due to erosion and safety issues.
“We straightened an area that had actually been eroding away up to some houses on the west side and we actually had one resident who fell off in the ditch on a riding mower, lucky didn’t have any major issues,” Goodall said. “We took it as a safety issue to make sure we got that creek back within some banks that were away from those homes and not creating problems.”
Goodall said that a permit was not required when work began in 2012.
“We did some maintenance work in the creek in the creek in 2012,” Goodall said. “We inquired with the Corps if we needed a permit and we were told no at the time they didn’t think it was a big enough project to dictate a permit.”
That all changed when Maryville worked on Peach Creek again in 2015, when Goodall said the Corps told him a permit was required.
“We followed through with working again in 2014 and again in 2015, and in 2015 somehow the Corps were contacted that they should probably check on us because they thought we were doing a project that would dictate a permit,” Goodall said.
Goodall said upon the Corps visiting they determined Maryville should have had a permit, and the person who told them a permit was not required is no longer there.
“When they came up this time they told us absolutely we should have a permit for this, so we had the discussion about what’s changed,” Goodall said. “Unfortunately, all we got from that was ‘Well, the person you talked to is no longer here so we are not sure why they told you no.’”
Part of the reasoning for the change came from a 2015 revised definition on ‘waters of the United States’. According to a Maryville City Council Action Report, Peach Creek now falls under this new definition. The report would go on to state that Maryville opposes this definition.
“The City of Maryville is one of many local governments that objected to the new interpretations of “Waters of the United States”, and specifically Peach Creek coming under the purview of that definition,” the Maryville City Council Action Report said.
The Corps investigated the impact of Maryville’s construction, which was explained by Goodall.
“The corps got (the Department of National Resources), (Environmental Protection Agency), Conservation Agency all involved. We did a whole walk of the creek where we did our work, and they determined we had disturbed habitat in that area,” Goodall said
The construction work required trees to be cut down. Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences Jay McGhee said while he was unable to study the Peach Creek area, he suspects birds would be the primary species affected by the work. McGhee did say, however, there are other potential effects.
“Disturbed habitat could range for any wildlife that’s there. Primararly I would suspect birds but there is also insects in the soil, (and) insects in the stream,” McGhee said. “Removal of those trees could affect how much evapotranspiration is going on in the stites.”
McGhee explained evapotranspiration as how much sunlight is hitting the ground, and how it affects soil moisture.
“So if you have sunlight hitting the ground you’re going to have a lot more moisture being pulled up and evaporated from the soil and from the ground,” McGhee said. “Whereas, if there is a tree cover, trees are blocking some of that sunlight energy and you can have moisture ground.”
Based on pictures shown to McGhee, he finds the impact of the trees missing is small.
“(It) Looked like it was just a band of trees so there is not going be a lot of cover there anyway,” McGhee said.
The Corps had a different view. The Corps found Maryville did disturb habitat, and as a result had to be penalized.
Goodall explained the Corps penalized the city based on what they call stream credits.
“They go through their process (which is) what’s more or less a repayment plan they call it stream credits. They more less fine you, and it’s more less dictated on how much area you disturbed and the impact,” Goodall said.
The amount of stream credit Maryville owed was determined to be $4,752.54. At $50 per credit, the total cost would be over $237,627. Goodall and Maryville decided it was better to try to mediate the situation.
“Instead of just cutting a check, we decided to check in with specialized attorney,” Goodall said. “We got with her and we had a couple of meetings with the Corps. Through those conversations, she was able to mediate it down to (where) we have to go back and put in some in-stream structures.”
The three separate structures are four feet deep, 20 feet long, 10 feet thick and made of rock subgrade. The cost for this project is estimated to cost $90,000.
With additional work, Goodall said Maryville is now aware of what is expected by the Corps.
“We have a better grasp on what they expect now,” Goodall said. “We’ll make sure we contact them on any project and make sure we’re dotting all of our I’s and crossing all of ours T’s before we get any type of drainage issue again.”
Goodall hopes to have the project bidded out in the next few weeks. The project must be completed before 2019.