Nashville, TN - The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) have violated public notice laws in a pursuit to dredge, fill and re-rout nearly 10,000 feet of open streams and creeks in Williamson County, according to a government watchdog group.
Tennessee Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Tennessee PEER) charges that a one-time only public hearing this Tuesday was not adequately publicized by the agencies, and that interested parties are being effectively shut out. The proposed permits will allow the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to fill in thousands of feet of open streams, creeks and wetlands as part of building the controversial southern loop of State Route 840.Some streams will be "re-routed" into concrete pipe.
The environmental impact of this plan on the Harpeth and Duck River watersheds is not known to the state or the public because no Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared by TDOT or the Army Corp of Engineers.
TDEC has refused to delay or reschedule the hearing until they have issued the required public notice, explored alternatives, and before a completed permit application can be made available to the public. Environmentalists complained at a recent meeting with TDEC officials that the public notice and public participation rules were violated when TDEC failed to give notice of the hearing to environmentalists and other interested parties on the state notification list, including individuals suing in court over damage to private property from the muddy discharges coming from the 840 construction site onto private land.
One litigant, Ms. Lattie Brown of Williamson, County claims that the road has capped some tributaries feeding her property, decreasing the flow of Locke Branch, which goes through her property. The new TDOT permit will further affect Locke Branch on a yet-to-be-constructed portion of the road crossing the headwaters of Locke Branch and many other streams.
TDEC officials have yet to respond to complaints by environmentalists that the permit is so complicated that only trained engineers can fully understand it. TDEC also refused to agree to conduct an informational meeting in advance of the public hearing to answer questions about the technical details, and explore less damaging options.
"The Tuesday hearing is the only opportunity for the public to obtain specific information and air their objections to the plan," said Tennessee PEER Director Barry Sulkin,a former TDEC compliance chief, "The agencies would rather force this proposal through without the public's participation, but their stance is patently illegal."
The widely reported multi-million dollar fine between TDEC and TDOT does not address these permit issues and has not been finalized.
The One-Time hearing is scheduled for TUESDAY JANUARY 14, FAIRVIEW HIGH SCHOOL at 7:00 pm
Tennessee PEER is an alliance of employees working within the resource agencies to promote professional ethics, ensure government accountability and protect public health and the environment.