Concerns were expressed at the Soddy Daisy Commission on Thursday night about an expanding rock harvesting operation at the scenic North Chickamauga Creek.
The creek is a very protected waterway, Susan Crowell and Tim Laramore of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy told commissioners. They said that floodplains are highly regulated and the area of the creek as it passes through Soddy Daisy is all within a floodplain. The area is also not zoned for rock harvesting, they said.
The NCCC representatives came to the commission meeting concerning a business that is operating a rock business beside the waterway.
The EPA sets water quality standards nationally and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) regulates water quality in the state but leaves the responsibility of implementing the regulations to individual municipalities, it was stated.
Rock mining operations are required to obtain conditional permits. At the end of June, the NCCC submitted a request to the Soddy Daisy to see which permits the quarry owner had and to see what restrictions he had to adhere to. It was discovered that that there were none.
The NCCC officials said the devastation to the once tree-filled area has been growing, evidenced by a Google map search which showed the area was all green in 2002. At that time, the original owner of the property had a small rock harvesting business and had gotten a permit that covered nine acres. The business was then sold to Ned Rich, who has almost doubled the mining operation which is now up to 17 acres, without expanding or revising the permit to accommodate the increase, it was claimed. At the time of the sale, officials from the city failed to think about permit requirements, the commission was told.
River rock is being removed from an old stream bed that was left when the water flow changed over the years. TDEC made an inspection of the operation last week and determined that rules are not being followed, including that the storage for the materials that are being mined, is in an area as close as seven feet from where the creek now flows, NCCC officials said. TDEC is concerned about the effect on “outflow” or water quality, it was stated.
Among other things, conditional permits would assure that water quality standards are met and that the disturbed area be restored, officials said. And FEMA requires development plans to be made. The commissioners were told that TDEC also requires a bond on projects such as this, in case the business owners do not restore the property. City Attorney Sam Elliott said that Soddy Daisy could implement that requirement.
City Manage Janice Cagle said that in the past, zoning changes had been made in the Soddy Daisy Industrial Park where part of the mining operation is located. But she said that it is not now known if the business with new owners was operational when the rezoning took place. If so, it would be grandfathered in and would be considered to be operating legally, she said, even though new permits would be required of a like business starting today. If it is determined that conditional permits are needed, said Attorney Elliott, there will be a public hearing and he told the NCCC representatives they could speak.
In regular business, a resolution was passed adopting the Hamilton County Multi-jurisdictional Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan. Soddy Daisy will join with all the other municipalities in Hamilton County for emergency preparedness. All the cities have inventoried and listed their assets from the public works departments and the police and fire equipment that could be used in an emergency situation.
The city manager was authorized to hire an employee to work at the Senior Center for around $13,000 yearly, which was not a budgeted item.
Ms. Cagle was also given approval to purchase 15 portable radios to be used by the police department at the cost of $79,138, and six radios for the fire department at the cost of $42,889. The radios were included in this year’s budget. Later in the year, mobile radios for the police will be needed and those are estimated to cost about $33,000. The analogue radios currently being used, have become obsolete and need to be replaced with digital radios.
Mayor Gene Shipley said that the city continues to grow. This can be seen with the continuous increase in building permits which has been over $1 million for the past several months.