May 18, 2013 7:48:16 PM
A long process of securing easements and proper documentation has caused delays in cleaning Magowah Creek, but landowners and farmers who have suffered as result of flooding may finally see relief as soon this year.
More than a year ago, Lowndes County supervisors passed a resolution requesting the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District to clear a five-mile stretch of the creek which filled with silt from the river and had flooded crops in the area after heavy rains.
The creek, located in south Lowndes County hear the Weyerhaeuser facility, is the primary drainage basin for areas west of U.S. Highway 45 to the river.
The project hit a snag in the form of the National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan. Commonly known as "No net loss," the United States government's environmental policy regarding wetlands preservation calls for the creation of new wetlands to offset destruction of existing ones.
Board president Harry Sanders said environmental officials believe clearing the creek destroys wetlands, so the county will have to replace an unknown amount of acreage considered wetlands with like property, which requires a delineation study. Last week, the county renewed the resolutions at request of water management district executive director Steve Wallace. The county is unable to do the work on private property, necessitating asking the water management district to do so in its place.
"When the creek gets silted, it spreads out the water and there's no channel for the water to run in, so it goes into the basin. When you channel and dig out the creek, the water is going to flow quicker into the Tombigbee," Sanders said. "When the land (that was under water) dries up, it's not going to be considered wetlands anymore. We'll have to create new wetlands and set them aside just for that purpose."
Though the creek dries up during extended periods without rain, particularly during the summer, water buildup from heavy rains exceeds the creek's banks, causing major agricultural headaches for farmers who raise cotton, corn and livestock, Sanders said.
"It was channeled years ago in the 1940s or 50s, but in the meantime it's silted in and is not doing what was intended to do," Sanders said.
The delineation study must be done before workers can begin to make the improvements, he said. The goal is to have it completed in time for cleaning to begin this summer.
"It's a pretty big area, so (surveyors) will do most of the study from photographs, soil samples and maps and determine it from that," Sanders said. "That shouldn't take a long time unless they run into serious problems and have to go (on site) and do a physical survey."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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