Oxford repairing undeveloped site behind Exchange
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Apr 19, 2012 | 4495 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The state cited Oxford’s Commercial Development Authority in March for allowing sedimentary runoff into a local creek — pollution that environmental experts say can dilute water quality and harm wildlife.

An Oxford official says, however, that the problem is nearly fixed.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management requested the CDA fix the runoff problem after one of its inspectors investigated the site and filed his report March 19. The site is behind the Oxford Exchange, under the control of the CDA and set aside for commercial development. However, there are no plans to develop the site, said Fred Denney, a project manager for the city government.

CDAs are created by cities to offer incentives to lure large commercial projects and Oxford has used one over the years for several developments, including the Oxford Exchange and the Walmart Super Center.

According to the ADEM inspection report, sediments were observed running into Choccolocco Creek. Also, nearby stream banks did not appear to have proper protection and disturbed slopes and stockpiled soil were not adequately stabilized.

Denney said ADEM did not fine the city for the problem, but just requested it be fixed.

“We’re in the process of fixing that now … we’ve told ADEM what we were going to do,” Denney said. “We’ve got about 75 percent of it fixed now.”

Denney said the problem occurred because the site is undeveloped and has been for some time.

“There is no construction going on so it had some bare spots,” Denney said. “And if you have some bare spots you will have some runoffs.”

To fix the problem, the city is sodding the site to firm up the soil, Denney said. The recent rains will help the grass grow quickly, he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s website states that sedimentary runoff control is essential to preventing polluted runoff from roads, highways and bridges from reaching streams, rivers, ponds and lakes.

Erosion during and after construction of roads, highways and bridges can contribute large amounts of sediment and silt to runoff waters, the website states.

“Sedimentation and mud, it’ll dirty up the creek and reduce the level of oxygen,” said Frank Chitwood of Coosa Riverkeeper, a nonprofit group focused on protecting and restoring the Coosa River and its tributaries in the state.

“A lot of aquatic plants need sunlight and if it’s all dirty, they won’t get that sunlight.”

Without those plants, fish will lose a food source and hiding spots, Chitwood said. Also, the sediment eventually collects on the creek bed, depriving other species of the rocks they need to cling to and hide under, he said.

“There are mussel species that cling to rocks that can’t survive when there is a lot of sedimentation,” Chitwood said.

Chitwood noted that while excessive runoff is bad for wildlife, it is also bad for residents.

“The connection between us and local streams is really important by not commonly understood,” Chitwood said. “For instance, our water in those streams is filtered by mussels. Us getting clean water to drink is obviously very important.”

Chitwood said excessive runoff is also bad because Choccolocco Creek flows into Logan Martin Lake.

“The sediment eventually flows into the lake and gets stuck there because of the dam,” he said.

“The dam has a set storage capacity when it was built, which is being reduced because of sediment. That means we’ll have less storage to prevent flooding and less water to generate hydroelectricity.”

Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star

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