$3.7M lawsuit filed against 13 different defendants, including Columbia Co.

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email
The complaint alleges storm water runoff from upstream is damaging both the golf course and the river. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 19, 2011)

The complaint alleges storm water runoff from upstream is damaging both the golf course and the river. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 19, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- It's a $3.7 million dollar lawsuit and it's aimed at the Columbia County government.

This week, Jones Creek Golf Course and the Savannah Riverkeeper sued Columbia County and 12 other defendants, most of them builders and developers.

The complaint alleges storm water runoff from upstream is damaging both the golf course and the river.

Owners showed News 12 around the property, pointing out muddy creek after muddy creek. They are places they believe are overflowing because 13 different defendants dropped the ball.

James Holder moved to Jones Creek 10 years ago and says he has watched Willow Lake drop ever since.

"We built this house for the view and the view is slowly disappearing," Holder said.

A few years ago, Holder says the lake was 12 feet deep, but now it's about 12 inches deep. That change means his yard and the golf course are regularly flooded.

"They never diverted any of the water to stop the erosion and it just flooded the lake with silt every time we got a rain," he said.

This week, the Jones Creek Golf Course and the Savannah Riverkeeper filed a more than 200-page lawsuit.

"I thought it was long overdue," Holder said..

"It's just eating away the golf course, not to mention the rest of the creek, and those that are downstream," explains the Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.

The complaint lists 13 different defendants that they believe are to blame, most are builders and developers.

"We started helping them, started looking into it, and discovered that there had been a pretty severe failure on many different people's parts to actually do their job and keep the dirt where it was supposed to be," Bonitatibus said.

One of the defendants is Columbia County and its property at Marshall Square.

"They assume the responsibility of making sure that these contractors and developers are following the law. This is a clear case where Columbia County has not properly enforced -- has not made sure that these developers and contractors are doing what they have to do," Bonitatibus said.

Columbia County says they are reviewing the complaint as well as their management practices concerning storm water runoff. The county says it does not have any liability in the case and that the matter has been turned over to the county attorney's office.

"They're going to need to look and take a step back and maybe re-look at the way that they are developing the county and see are we headed down a sustainable path because right now the answer is no," said Bonitatibus about county practices.

The attorney for Jones Creek says the problem needs to be fixed and prevented in the future. He also says the golf course deserves compensation for the damage it had caused.

The red clay runoff can also pose health concerns for marine life in the Savannah River. If you'd like to read the complaints, click the links to your left.


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