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									Final Scoping Report

Environmental Assessment for the
Update of the Shoreline Management Plan
for Walter F. George Lake




Prepared for:
US Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District
PO Box 2288
Mobile, AL 36628


Prepared by:
Tetra Tech, Inc.
10306 Eaton Place, Suite 340
Fairfax, VA 22030

September 8, 2010
Environmental Assessment for the Update of the                                                                                                         FINAL
Shoreline Management Plan for Walter F. George Lake                                                                                            Scoping Report




                                                 Final Scoping Report

        Environmental Assessment for the Update of the
               Shoreline Management Plan for
                   Walter F. George Lake

                                                     September 8, 2010

                                                                      Contents

Introduction................................................................................................................................................. 1
Web Site ....................................................................................................................................................... 1
Scoping Meetings ........................................................................................................................................ 1
Summary of Comments Received.............................................................................................................. 2
  VEGETATION MODIFICATION ................................................................................................................... 3
  GENERAL COMMENTS............................................................................................................................... 4
  DOCKS....................................................................................................................................................... 4
  ECONOMIC IMPACTS ................................................................................................................................. 6
  DOCK FURNITURE ..................................................................................................................................... 6
  PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT ............................................................................................................................. 7
  LEGAL/FEE/ADMINISTRATIVE CONCERNS ............................................................................................... 7
  VEHICLE USE ............................................................................................................................................ 8
  BANK STABILIZATION/EROSION/SEA WALLS .......................................................................................... 9
  OTHER ....................................................................................................................................................... 9
Attachment 1: News Release Announcing Public Scoping Meetings
Attachment 2: Letter to Mailing List Soliciting Comments
Attachment 3: Public Meeting Displays
Attachment 4: NEPA Handout
Attachment 5: List of Corps Proposed Changes to the SMP
Attachment 6: Public Comment Form
Attachment 7: Public Comments




                                                                                                                                       September 8, 2010
                                                                                ii
Introduction
As part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, the public was informed of the intent
of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) for
the update of the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) for Walter F. George Lake. The Corps issued a news
release (Attachment 1) on May 21, 2010, notifying the public of two public meetings (open houses)––one
in Fort Gaines, Georgia, and the other in Eufaula, Alabama––on June 22, 2010. The news release
described the purpose of the public scoping meetings and explained the need for the EA and SMP update.
The Corps’ Public Affairs Office distributed the new release to local and regional newspapers, radio and
television stations, and other media contacts that it uses for any actions within the Apalachicola,
Chattahoochee, and Flint (ACF) Basin. In addition, a PDF version of the news release was emailed to all
persons on the project mailing list that had email addresses. It was also posted on the project Web site.

In addition, the Corps sent out a letter on June 29, 2010 (Attachment 2) to persons on the project mailing
list, including shoreline permittees, to inform them of the opportunity to submit any comments and
concerns for consideration during the development of the EA and SMP. The deadline for public
comments was originally set as July 16, 2010; however, to ensure that all interested parties had ample
time to comment, the Corps extended the deadline to July 30, 2010.

Web Site
The Corps developed a comprehensive project Web site (www.walterfgeorgeea-smp.net) to keep the
public informed of the progress of the EA and SMP, publicize meetings, facilitate submitting comments
during scoping and again when the Draft EA and SMP are released for public comment, allow people to
sign up for the project mailing list, and provide general information on the project.

Scoping Meetings
The first scoping meeting was held Tuesday, June 22, 2010, from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm Eastern Daylight
Time at the Walter F. George Resource Manager’s Office in Fort Gaines, Georgia. The second meeting
was held the same day from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm Central Daylight Time at the Eufaula Community Center
in Eufaula, Alabama. A sign-in table with an attendee roster, along with a greeter, was available at each
meeting. A poster at the sign-in table provided instructions explaining how the public could view and
comment on the displays, handouts, and other information provided at the meetings. Key topics were
presented at various stations at the meetings as follows (see Attachment 3 for copies of the actual display
posters):

       Registration table
       National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
       Walter F. George Lake map (site map and photos)
       Current Shoreline Management Plan (SMP)
       Key topics addressed in the SMP
       Shoreline use allocation
       Expected changes to the SMP
       Chain of authority
       Comments table

In addition to the displays, the Corps provided a NEPA handout (Attachment 4), a list of the proposed
changes to the SMP (Attachment 5), and forms for submitting comments (Attachment 6).



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                                                     1
A representative of the Corps was present at each station to answer any questions posed by the attendees.
To encourage comments, the Corps provided a seating area with tables, pens, and comment forms.
Participants had the option of hand-writing their comments at the meeting, typing them on a computer, or
emailing them to the Corps’ contractor, Tetra Tech, Inc. Following the meetings, the Corps mailed an
updated version of the initial news release, a copy of the list of proposed changes to the SMP, and a
comment form to each person on the project mailing list, including attendees at both meetings, current
shoreline use permit holders at the lake, and other interested parties on the mailing list. The mailing list
includes approximately 2,000 individuals and organizations.

A total of 75 people signed the attendee rosters––22 at the Fort Gaines meeting and 53 at the Eufaula
meeting. In some cases, only one representative of each family/group signed in. Five completed comment
forms were submitted at the meetings. Many people expressed their intent to mail or email their
comments after the meeting.

Summary of Comments Received
A total of 1,721 comments were received from more than 360 individuals or organizations
(Attachment 7). Most people provided comments on several different issues in the same e-mail, letter,
or comment form. Respondents submitted 201 emails, 152 letters (by the U.S. Postal Service), and
5 comment forms from the two public meetings. Some people sent duplicate letters by email and regular
mail. Those duplicates were removed and not counted in the summaries that follow. Additional comment
forms were submitted directly to the Lake Project Office, and they were subsequently scanned and
included in this report as well. Figure 1 provides a breakdown of the major issue areas about which
respondents commented. The majority of comments focus on the details of some of the proposed changes
to the SMP, with very few scoping comments to identify key resource areas to focus the environmental
analysis or areas less important for consideration.




Figure 1

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                                                     2
Vegetation Modification
The category of vegetation modification received the most comments. Thirty-five percent (601
comments) of all comments received fell into this category.

The majority (92%) of the comments in this category are related to the proposed changes to the SMP
dealing with limited underbrushing. Nearly one-third (194 comments) of the overall comments on
vegetation modification deal with mowing (Figure 2). Most commenters do not like the proposed change
to allow mowing only by push mowers. Residents do not agree with the change, noting the following
reasons:

       Some residents are too elderly or are otherwise unable to push a lawnmower. Their limited
        abilities make it necessary to use riding mowers. Also, using a push mower can increase the risk
        of heat exhaustion on very hot days.
       Some residents cannot afford to buy a push mower if they don’t have one.
       Some residents cannot afford to hire a lawn service to use a push mower if they cannot do it
        themselves.

Fifteen percent (88)
of the vegetation
comments are related
to tree cutting. Most
of the commenters
feel that permittees
should be allowed to
cut trees larger than 1
inch in diameter.
Many feel that
leaving trees larger
than 1 inch in
diameter will block
views, attract
nuisance wildlife such
as snakes, and reduce
property values.        Figure 2

The next highest percentage of the specific comments (13%, or 79 comments) in the vegetation
modification category is related to the proposed stipulation that permittees be allowed to underbrush only
50% or 100 feet of fronting government property. The proposal also stipulates that only 25 to 50 feet of
government land may be underbrushed back from the shoreline. Commenters believe that their lawns and
shoreline views will suffer greatly if they are not allowed to underbrush more than 50% or 100 feet of
fronting government property. Homeowners that have only about 100 feet of property feel that they will
not have any lawn or view to speak of because their entire property falls within this boundary area. In
addition, some feel that allowing only 100 feet to be underbrushed will attract snakes, insects, and other
nuisance wildlife and could increase the risk of fires.

The Corps received 31 comments (5%) regarding burning on government property. The commenters are
not happy about the proposal to disallow any burning on government property, citing the need to clear
underbrush to allow scenic views, remove snake habitat, and perform overall property maintenance. One
person suggested that the Corps allow burning in metal barrels; another suggested that burning be allowed
by forestry permit.


                                                                                         September 8, 2010
                                                    3
Twenty-seven percent of the vegetation comments are general statements in which the commenters
describe their unhappiness with any proposed changes to the current underbrushing regulations.

The remaining comments in the vegetation modification category focus on native and aquatic plants (3%),
herbicide application (3%), and hazardous trees (2%), The commenters express a desire for the Corps to
control unwanted aquatic vegetation to prevent algae and other plants from choking the lake, impeding
flow, and degrading the aesthetics of the lake. Several refer to the problems at Lake Seminole, noting that
they do not want Walter F. George Lake to experience similar problems. Several commenters, however,
do not feel that it is fair to ask landowners to obtain a permit to plant flowers and bushes. Some express a
desire to have only native plants on Corps property.

General Comments
Eighteen percent of all comments submitted were categorized as general comments. Many of these
comments cover multiple comment areas, express a general desire to keep the existing SMP as it is
(unchanged), or are not specific to any one issue. Following are examples of the majority of the
comments included in this category:

       Some of the proposed changes need clarification. For many issues, the table of changes is not
        descriptive enough to understand what the Corps is proposing to change.
       I do not agree with any of the proposed changes.
       Keep the SMP as it currently exists.
       Why does the Corps need to make these changes?
       The proposed changes will affect residents negatively.
       It should not be the government’s responsibility to regulate every detail of property ownership.
       Please consider waterfront property owners in your decision making.
       I would like our lake to be beautiful and fun.
       I bought my lakefront property because of the views of the lake; the proposed changes will
        negatively affect views of the lake.
       I do not agree with any changes that will dampen recreational use of the shoreline or the lake.
       The proposed changes are unnecessary.
       The citizen taxpayers own the lake and therefore should be able to manage their property as they
        so desire.

Docks
The category of docks received 203 comments, the third largest group of comments. Twelve percent of all
comments received fell into this category. Most of the comments were in response to the proposed
changes to the SMP dealing with the maximum number of docks allowed on the lake and the color of the
docks (Figure 3). Each of these two subcategories had 16% of the 203 comments. Most commenters
would not like to see the Corps limit the number of docks on the lake and do not agree that docks should
be earth-toned in color. The residents state the following reasons:

       Maximum number of docks
        - Some residents think that their property values will decrease because construction companies
           will not want to develop lakefront land if docks cannot be built. The houses would be hard to
           sell once completed.
        - Others feel that property owners without boat docks should have the same rights to develop
           their properties as those who already have boat docks.
        - Some property owners have been saving money to build a dock for several years and feel that
           it is not fair to put this ruling into effect.

                                                                                          September 8, 2010
                                                     4
Figure 3


          Dock color
           - Exactly what colors constitute earth-toned colors needs to be clarified.
           - Some residents recently painted their docks and cannot afford to have them repainted for
              several years.
           - Earth tones are much harder for people in boats to see, especially at dusk and dawn.
           - Some dock owners are worried that in the future there will be a limit on the type of material
              from which a boat dock may be made. Some materials are harder to paint than others and do
              not come in earth-toned colors.
           - Many residents feel that current dock colors need to be grandfathered until a dock needs to be
              repainted; this would avoid unnecessary costs.

Eighteen percent (36) of the dock-related comments are general comments regarding the structure or use
of the dock. Some landowners support the proposed changes as long as the regulations are enforced. They
feel that some docks on the lake are in poor condition because the current regulations are not enforced.

Eleven percent (22) of the comments in the dock category are related to the proposed changes to the SMP
regarding the maximum distance of walkways being set at 100 feet. Some people note that there should be
no limit on the distance of the walkway if there is a limit on the minimum water depth for a dock. Some
agree that some walkways have been getting too long and, at some areas on the lake, are hard to navigate
around.

Another eleven percent (22) of the comments received in this category are related to community docks.
Some people feel that a community dock would take away the charm associated with a lake that has
individual homeowner docks. A community dock could also invite vandalism because it would be a “one-

                                                                                          September 8, 2010
                                                      5
stop shop.” Others feel that that this proposed change could restrict the privilege of some of the adjacent
landowners of having a private pier. Others feel that there should be community docks only for
homeowners who do not have lakefront property.

The remaining comments in the dock category are focused on flag poles and birdhouses on government
land (5%), the size of docks (5%), safety reflectors (5%), water depth of docks (4%), dock anchorage
(3%), sun shading (2%), realty signs (1%), dock lighting (1%), and dock removal (1%). Most commenters
are against a limitation on the size of the dock. Some residents have large boats or many personal
watercrafts that they would like to house at the dock. Many commenters do not agree with the proposed
changes to the SMP regarding sun shades. Residents feel that some dock owners do not light their docks
well enough. Several residents support keeping safety reflectors on the docks. Some feel that cables are
dangerous and should not be allowed. Some residents believe that some of the docks are in poor condition
and should be removed for safety reasons or to improve the lake’s water quality. Most commenters like
the birdhouses that are currently on government property and enjoy the wildlife they attract. Commenters
also like to be able to post realty signs, so that those traveling by the lake on the water can see that the
property is for sale.

Economic Impacts
The category of economic impacts received 93 comments. Five percent of all the comments received fell
into this category. Many feel that the proposed changes to the SMP will significantly affect the counties
they live in and their property values. They state the following reasons:

       The proposed changes on limited underbrushing would limit their current view of the lake and
        thereby reduce property values. Diminished views could also make the property less appealing at
        the time of sale.
       Crime rates could increase because neighbors will not be able to see the houses through the thick
        brush that will develop as a result of the proposed underbrushing changes. Owners will also not
        be able to keep an eye on their boats and other recreational vehicles from their houses.
       The proposed changes could deter families from renting houses on the lake or visiting the lake,
        which could in turn affect the local restaurants and businesses that thrive during tourist season.
       Some residents feel that if the proposed changes go into effect, the high tax rates that have
        traditionally been associated with lakefront property could drop, which would reduce income for
        area counties. Clay, Quitman and Barbour counties are already some of the most economically
        depressed in Georgia and Alabama. The proposed changes could make the situation worse.

Dock Furniture
The category of dock furniture received six percent (94 comments) of the total comments collected. A
majority (39%) of the comments in this category were in response to the proposed changes to the SMP
dealing with flag poles (Figure 4). Most commenters do not like the proposed change to allow only
American flags on the flag poles on docks, citing the following reasons:

       Some residents feel that the proposed changes would take away their right to freedom of speech.
       Others feel that their individuality would be limited because they could not display a state flag or
        monogrammed flag or show their support for their favorite college team.
       Some do not understand what effect limiting the number of flags poles or the type of flag allowed
        has on the environment.




                                                                                           September 8, 2010
                                                     6
Twenty-four percent
of the comments in
the dock furniture
category were
comments on the
proposed limitations
on the type of dock
furniture allowed.
Many residents like
to enjoy the lake by
sitting on their
docks. Some
residents agree that
furniture should not
be left loose on
decks. Rather than
allowing only
furniture that is
                        Figure 4
built-in with the
structure of the dock, they feel that outdoor furniture should be allow if it is bolted, tied, or otherwise
secured to the structure of the dock.

Eighteen percent of the 94 dock furniture comments were in response to the proposed changes to the rules
on playground equipment. Although some residents agree with the proposed change, most of those who
commented do not. Some commenters want something for their grandchildren to enjoy and do not
understand why swings on docks should be limited if they are taken down or secured during inclement
weather.

There were a small number of comments (9%) on limiting the number of ladders on a dock. Those who
commented are concerned about easy access to the lake. A few commented that they feel they need quick
access to the lake if someone falls in and needs to be helped. Some residents feel that the more ladders a
dock has, the safer the dock will be.

The remaining comments in the dock furniture category are focused on general disapproval of the
proposed dock furniture changes to the SMP.

Public Involvement
The Corps received 92 comments (5% of the total) regarding the involvement of the public in the
development of the SMP and EA. Most commenters express disappointment that they did not know about
the scoping meetings and note that they would have liked to attend. Many wish they had received letters
about the meetings before the meetings. Others mention that they feel the Corps should have provided a
longer scoping comment period.

Legal/Fee/Administrative Concerns
The category of legal/fees/administrative concerns includes seven different subcategories: change of
ownership, grandfathering facilities, encroachment, specified acts, zoning changes, exhibits in the SMP,
and fees. Only four percent of all the comments are related to these seven subcategories.

The majority (53%) of the 70 comments deal with grandfathering facilities (Figure 5). Most of the
commenters are in favor of grandfathering all the facilities and having the proposed SMP changes apply

                                                                                              September 8, 2010
                                                       7
to only new facilities and properties around the lake. Many residents would like to see the following
facilities grandfathered if the proposed changes become effective:

       Dock facilities (should be allowed to keep the current color until repainting is needed, and will
        then go to an earth-toned color)
       Bank-stabilizing structures, such as sea walls and retaining walls
       All structures that were previously approved by the Corps

The next highest
percentage (19%) of
comments in this
category is related to
encroachment. Most of
the residents agree with
the proposed changes
and suggest adding that
the government must
give official notice of
the encroachment and
allow a specific
number of days to
correct the situation.
Other commenters feel
that the Corps is
encroaching on their
property line and that
                         Figure 5
the “red line” gets
closer every few years.

Thirteen percent (9) of the comments received in this category are in response to fees. There are not many
comments on the Corps’ proposal to explain administrative fees in the SMP or to explain the charge for
facilities that are in easement property. Rather, most of the comments are focused on the amounts of the
fees. The commenters believe that many of the permit fees are already too high, and they do not want to
see more changes, which will add more fees.

Ten percent (7) of the comments are related to change of ownership. Most commenters are in favor of the
proposed change to make it the permit holder’s responsibility to notify the Corps of any change in
ownership. They feel that it is common sense and in the best interest of all parties involved to notify the
Resource Management Office for legal protection. Some, however, feel that the responsibility should lie
with the new owner.

Specified acts (3%), zoning changes (1%), and exhibits in the SMP (1%) make up the remaining
comments in the legal/fees/administrative concerns category. Most of these comments are related to
wanting to see more explanation of the proposed changes.

Vehicle Use
Three percent (59) of all the comments received were in response to vehicle operation on public property.
Most commenters are fearful that the Corps’ proposal to discuss golf cart permits in the SMP means that
golf carts will no longer be allowed on government property. Commenters stated the following reasons
for wanting golf carts to be allowed:

                                                                                          September 8, 2010
                                                     8
       Some elderly residents rely on golf carts or other four-wheeled vehicles to access the lake.
       Prohibiting the use of golf carts would contradict the requirements set forth in the Americans with
        Disabilities Act.

Some commenters feel that permittees should not be limited to golf carts only. They believe that other
four-wheeled vehicles should be an acceptable mode of transportation for lake access. Some commenters
suggested that a weight limit be set for vehicle usage.

Bank Stabilization/Erosion/Sea Walls
More than half (58%) of the 60 comments submitted regarding bank stabilization/erosion/sea walls are
related to shoreline erosion (Figure 6). Twenty-seven percent of the comments in this category are related
to sea walls. Several comments center around promoting the use of bulkheads and sea walls to help guard
against shoreline erosion. One commenter suggests that the Corps set design requirements for sea walls.
On the other hand, some commenters express a desire for the Corps to strengthen existing requirements to
protect the shoreline and ask that the Corps continue to help maintain shoreline vegetation to prevent
erosion. Several say they would like to have seen some erosion control measures in the proposed SMP
changes. One
commenter
mentions the need
for adding improved
open drains to the
SMP to aid in
erosion control.
Other commenters
list activities that
they believe
contribute to
erosion, including
ATVs, golf carts
and other vehicles;
timber cutting; and
in some cases no
wake zones because
they change where        Figure 6
skiers and personal
watercraft riders are allowed to ride.

Other
The remaining comments (8%) span across several issues, including dock/lake access, walkways, and
boat ramps; number of boat lifts allowed; decks; facility maintenance and repair; health and safety
concerns; concerns about lake levels; mooring buoys; new construction; pollution/trash in and around the
lake; recreation; utilities and irrigation pumps; and wildlife management. On the issue of boat lifts, most
of the people commenting on this topic (seven commenters) prefer Option 1 under personal watercraft
lifts (a limit of only two PWC lifts allowed with a maximum capacity of four) and Option 1 under
independent floating boat lifts (lifts may not protrude on the sides of docks). In the category of facility
maintenance, most commenters prefer Option 2 (having the Resource Manager determine whether a
repair is classified as major).




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