Plan irks Lake George residents

GEORGETOWN -- Lakefront property owners around Lake Walter F. George and the U.S. Corps of Engineers seem headed for a showdown over a recently released environmental assessment plan laid out by the lake's governmental overseers.

In the much-anticipated proposal, the Corps is seeking to return the lake's shoreline to a natural vegetative state, which it says will help limit erosion from downhill water runoff.

Property owners say the proposal will diminish their property values while the Corps contents it is for the greater good of all the lake's visitors.

The proposal has 17 changes to existing regulations, but the change that is drawing the most ire is a call for limited underbrush cutting.

The hot button item reads: "In all cases other than retaining walls, the area to be underbrushed will not exceed 100 feet or 50 percent of the property boundary of the common boundary whichever is less and shall not extend beyond 50 feet from the shore line. Small trees, three inches or less in diameter, may be cut."

"The No. 1 issue for us is the vegetation modification issue," Richard Sacco, the PR representative for the Friends of Lake Eufaula (as the lake is known in Alabama), said "Those who share shoreline common boundaries with the Corps will be affected by this thin strip of land. This proposal will depress values for all lakefront property owners."

Bill Smallwood, ACF River Project Manager for the Corps, says while he can understand the property owners' concerns, the Corps is considering the greater good of the Lake and its visitors.

"You have to keep in mind that Lake George receives more than 4 million visits per year, and we are looking at the longterm health of the lake for everybody -- not just the property owners." Smallwood said. "Basically this particular proposal is intended to allow for an erosion and runoff barrier. This border will provide some slowdown of the runoff.

"Lots of people use this lake, and this plan is in the long-term best interest of the lake and those who use it."

FOLE says lake area elected officials from the city of Eufaula; Barbour County, Ala., and Quitman County are anticipating declines in the value of their tax digest if the proposal is enacted. The group went on to add that all have submitted letters in opposition to the Corps' proposal.

FOLE will hold its annual meeting at 3 p.m. EDT on April 30 at the Eufaula Community Center to discuss the proposals and options.

The Corps' entire environmental assessment plan for the lake may be seen online at this link: http://www.walterfgeorgeea-smp.net/draft.htm.