Hawkins still wading through permit process to save Laurel Run Park shoreline

Jeff Bobo • Apr 3, 2018 at 7:00 PM
ROGERSVILLE — Laurel Run Park slowly continues to shrink thanks to Holston River shoreline erosion, but a recently approved state permit paves the way for federal authorities to begin addressing the issue.

For the past three fiscal years, the Hawkins County Commission has maintained the same $75,000 line item in its parks budget to cover any potential costs associated with a shoreline remediation project at the park.

On Monday, the County Commission’s Parks Committee voted 6-1 in favor of recommending that the full commission keep that same $75,000 in the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Why has it taken four years to reach this point?

County Facilities Manager Alana Roberts told the Parks Committee Tuesday that the holdup over the past several years has been waiting for approval of a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation permit.

That permit was to perform shoreline remediation at the park was awarded by TDEC earlier this year.

The next step is approval of an Army Corps of Engineers permit, which is expected to occur sometime this spring following a public hearing, assuming there are no objections.

Once the Army Corps of Engineers permit is approved, the Tennessee Valley Authority will determine if it has the funding to pay for any or all of the shoreline project.

Roberts said she was told by federal authorities that once the TDEC permit was approved, the other required permits would be approved much more quickly.

A 4-year-old estimate has the cost of preserving 1,888 linear feet of Laurel Run Park shoreline at approximately $200,000.

What’s happening to the park’s shoreline?

Just as it did in the Mel Gibson movie “The River” that was filmed there 35 years ago, the Holston River is claiming real estate at Laurel Run Park at an alarming rate.

The 2,500-foot-long shoreline has been eroded an average of 6-10 feet during the past eight years.

Trees that were once 5-10 feet inland have either been washed away or are teetering on the bank.

Roberts told the committee that the river is now threatening the long stretch of riverside walking trail. 

In some places, the river is only 3-5 feet from the trail, and warning signs have been posted along the riverbank alerting trail users to be mindful of where they step. 

A short distance upstream from the park is a major river bend.

When it rains, the current coming around that bend puts pressure on the southern shore.

As a result, the park’s riverbank is being undercut, which first creates sinkholes, followed by collapse of the shore, which eventually washes away.

How will the shoreline be saved?

The county won’t be able to reclaim the real estate that has already been lost. 

Remediation will take place on the riverbank between the boat ramp at the far west end of the park and an area near where Laurel Run Creek empties into the river.

The plan to save existing shoreline includes installing 1,888 linear feet of “riprap” stabilization materials. 

In areas where riprap is proposed, the banks will be sloped as needed for stability, and riprap will be keyed in for additional stability.

Once the slope is prepared, geotextile fabric will be placed prior to the riprap.

Rock armoring will be worked into the bank to support existing heavy vegetation, and tree removal will occur at locations due to damage.

Seasonal grass planting for erosion control and longterm plantings to stabilize the ground will take place as needed.

When will construction begin?

A TVA representative informed Hawkins County recently that he believes all pending permit applications will be approved before June 30, but there is no guarantee that funding will be in place for shoreline remediation to begin by that time.

“TVA won’t make a commitment to us until we get the permits,” Roberts told the Parks Committee. “What they asked for when we started looking at this was if the county was willing to put some good faith money up. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to have to pay it out. They may come along and pay for the whole thing. We might be able to do some things ‘in-kind’ instead of actual money. Then again, they might say they don’t have enough money to do it — ‘If you’ve got $75,000 that would help us a lot.’ ”

The only committee member to vote against placing the $75,000 back in the budget for 2018-19 was Commissioner Danny Alvis.

Army Corps of Engineers public hearing

Any person can request a public hearing or enter a comment into the public record regarding this project by emailing Aric Payne at aric.j.payne@usace.army.mil or sending a letter to: Nashville District Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division (Attn: Aric Payne), 1301 Riverfront Parkway Suite 206, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

The deadline to enter a comment into the record is April 12.