Archived Story

Lake cleanup efforts stalled

Published 8:31pm Friday, May 13, 2011

More than two weeks after a tornado ravaged Lake Martin’s shores, officials are still working to organize a cleanup to remove debris from the water.

Lt. Erica Shipman with the Alabama Marine Police said Friday that the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is working with other state and federal agencies to get the cleanup underway.

“We volunteered to be the lead agency on this, but as of this point, we have not gotten the authority from the (U.S. Army) Corp of Engineers to get started,” Shipman said. “We are hoping to hear from them soon.”

The Lake Martin Resource Association issued a press release Friday, expressing frustration over the stalled cleanup efforts.

In the prepared statement, LMRA said they were “forced into the position of not taking any action toward the cleanup of Lake Martin when the matter was elevated to the Corps of Engineers (COE).”

“Negotiations between the State of Alabama and COE have stalled and no decision has been made about who will undertake the cleanup effort,” the statement read. “It appears that the lake does not fall under anyone’s sole responsibility therefore it does not qualify under the governmental legal requirements for approval of cleanup assistance.

“LMRA believes the matter is tied up with bureaucratic red tape and we have no idea when the decision will be made as to who will be responsible for the cleanup. Due to strict standards for compliance with COE guidelines, any volunteer effort could seriously impair the ability to secure federal assistance. LMRA and others are very frustrated with the delay and we are anxious to see the cleanup process start.”

Shipman said they too are ready to begin the cleanup.

“We’ve met with the counties – Tallapoosa and Elmore counties – the county EMAs, engineers, Alabama Power, LMRA and someone from FEMA,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of people working together on this.”

LMRA said their main concern is the danger the debris poses to boaters on the lake, particularly with Memorial Day weekend just two weeks away.

“This will be one of the most busy boating weekends of the year and many boaters are not aware of the danger, especially to tubers and skiers,” their statement read. “We still see debris in the water with protruding nails and sharp edges. LMRA urges boaters to be aware of these dangers, especially in the areas of the most destruction on land. LMRA will be placing flyers at marinas and gas pumps around the lake to warn boaters of the danger.”

The LMRA said that due to the size of the debris problem and the danger to volunteers, it is beyond the capability of volunteers to accomplish the cleanup and they are urging the State or the COE to undertake the cleanup.

“We’ve got to get some big boys – some barges and cranes to lift this stuff out of the water,” said Charles Borden, LMRA president, who added that some of the debris has made its way from the sloughs to open water.

At some future time after the large debris has been removed, LMRA said they would organize a volunteer effort to finish cleaning the lake of small debris. There will also be fall cleanup events scheduled to remove all the debris that is now on the lake floor in an effort to return the lake to its pristine state.

“In the meantime, we are telling people to please to be careful on the lake, and to be mindful that there is debris in the water,” Shipman said. “The LMRA has expressed they’re concerned about people water skiing and tubing because there is debris, and we echo those same concerns.”