EVENT: David Pope of non-profit environmental advocacy organization, Southern Environmental Law Center, to speak at Skidaway Rotary

3 02 2009

David Pope of the Southern Environmental Law Center will speak to the Skidaway Rotary Feb. 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center is a non-profit, donor-supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SAVANNAH, GA) David Pope of the non-profit environmental advocacy organization, the Southern Environmental Law Center, will speak to the Skidaway Rotary February 18 about “Protecting Coastal Treasures.” Pope will discuss the unique and important resources on the Georgia coast, the threats they face, and what SELC is doing to protect those resources. The Southern Environmental Law Center uses the power of the law to protect the environment and special places in the South. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has a special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast with three lawyers working on this effort.

The Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Pope oversees the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization’s special initiative focused on protecting the Georgia coast. He also supervises all of SELC’s other work in Georgia and Alabama, including work to protect the public’s interest in our air, water and forests and work to improve our transportation issues and energy efficiency. In addition, he serves on the management committee for the organization and helps sets the priorities for work throughout the South.

He is a former partner at Carr, Tabb & Pope in Atlanta, with 29 years of environmental law practice. He graduated from University of Florida, Phi Beta Kappa, and University of North Carolina Law School.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center SELC is a nonprofit donor supported, environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. Since 1986, SELC has informed, implemented and enforced environmental law and policy concerning clean air and water, mountain forests, the coast and wetlands, and rural lands and livable communities. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has 63 staff members and offices in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Chapel Hill and Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, DC,; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online at www.southernenvironment.org





Route 133 project ending environmental phase

3 12 2008

Susan McCord | Albany Herald

ALBANY — State funds may still be scarce for widening State Route 133 to four lanes from Albany to Valdosta, but the environmental phase of the project is nearly complete.

Guests at Georgia Department of Transportation open house events Tuesday in Albany, Doerun and Moultrie viewed aerial maps of the project’s 32-mile route from Albany to Moultrie, learned more about right-of-way acquisition and examined results of an environmental study required by federal law.

Wetlands are common throughout the project and there is one federally protected endangered species, the Coulley’s Meadow Rue, a plant found primarily on a power line right-of-way and on lands owned by the Nature Conservancy along the route, said Ron Johnson, a biologist with Aecom, which conducted the study.

The environmental document is “essentially done,” said Johnson, who also surveyed for animals possibly impacted by the project, such as the gopher tortoise, and found none.

Plans displayed Tuesday showed Highway 133 enlarged to four lanes, with a 44-foot grass median along most of the route from Albany to Moultrie. The road deviates from the current route in five places between the two cities, including a new bypass that skirts the northern city limits of Doerun. The speed limit will be 65 mph where the median is 32 feet or wider.

DOT recently held similar meetings on the Moultrie to Valdosta section of the project, said Manager Michael Haithcock, who has been involved since its 2001 start.

Though the environmental document must be cleared by federal officials before construction can start, the entire corridor lacks state funding, Haithcock said.

While preliminary engineering for the project has been funded, right-of-way acquisition and construction never has.

“We’ll have a better idea in about a year,” he said. “We want to be ready, so if we do get the funding, these projects are ready to go.”

DOT and most state agencies have announced large budget shortfalls and cuts this year, and public estimates of the project’s cost has ranged from $300 million to $1.3 billion.

“I would love to see it happen,” said Haithcock. “The thing I like about this corridor is that we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of public support.”

Recently retired state Transportation Board member Billy Langdale was always a “big supporter” of the corridor project, he said, and Langdale is “one of the greatest Americans I’ve ever met in my life.”

The project bypasses Doerun to the north, an idea that gained favor with residents once they learned the entire town qualified for the National Historic Register, said Larry Cook, project manager with Hatch Mott MacDonald, which did surveying, design and bridge design for DOT.

The corridor spans 9.1 miles in Dougherty County, 10.6 miles in Worth County and 13.3 miles in Colquitt County.

But the open house was bittersweet for Dougherty residents Eddie and Marjorie Cox, whose brick home for 30 years is one of several in the way of the widening road.

Continue reading here.





Foreclosures leave erosion problems

21 11 2008

By Debbie Gilbert |  The Times, Gainesville

The foreclosure crisis has been devastating to the U.S. economy, and now it appears the environment is suffering as well.

Bert Langley, manager of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Mountain District in Cartersville, said he’s seen numerous cases where a developer or builder abandoned a property, leaving no one to monitor erosion control at the site.

“It’s a situation we’ve never dealt with before,” he said. “We have cases where massive amounts of sediment are going into streams.”

Normally, once the EPD becomes aware of a problem, an inspector visits the site and notes any violations. A consent order is then issued, requiring the responsible party — usually the developer — to correct the problem and sometimes pay a fine.

But now, it’s difficult to figure out who’s in charge. “From a regulatory standpoint, it’s a very confusing set of circumstances,” said Langley. “The former owner is often in bankruptcy and the chance of recovering any money is very slim.”

If the property is already foreclosed on, the bank assumes responsibility.

“But the bank may have no record of what’s been done on the site,” said Langley. “And the EPD in general will not be looking for a bank to pay a fine for something they didn’t do. Our main interest is getting the site into compliance.”

Environmental attorney Jimmy Kirkland said the situation is creating yet another headache for banks.

“It’s an issue that all lenders are facing now, having to take back properties that are partially constructed,” he said. “Banks aren’t accustomed to dealing with environmental permits. They need legal advice, but they also need assistance from consultants on developing plans for stormwater and erosion and sedimentation control.”

Kirkland was hired by BB&T to help the bank handle this issue. “The banks now own lots of properties that I’m sure they wish they didn’t,” he said.

Environmental problems occur when a developer clears and grades a property, but then abandons it before most of the construction is done.

Read on here.