Winter cleanupPublished 9:41am Friday, January 6, 2012
EMA tackles tornado debris exposed by lake drawdown
State officials announced Thursday their plan to rid Lake Martin of the tornado debris that became evident after the recent winter drawdown.
Alabama Emergency Management Agency Executive Officer Jeff Byard said during a press conference at Wind Creek State Park that various agencies would be working together to remove the debris from the Sandy Creek area of the lake, beginning with the state’s Department of Corrections.
“They’re an excellent partner in emergency management,” Byard said. “We work with them regularly on a lot of things, and they’re going to provide the initial push. Then we’ll work with the county and other agencies to get the equipment necessary to get the rest of the debris out.”
Terry Boyd, chief of the engineering section at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and project lead for the cleanup, said work to remove the estimated 100 cubic yards of debris would begin as soon as possible.
“As soon as the county gets the right of entry from the couple of property owners, we can cross their property to access the lake bottom,” Boyd said.
“We’re going to coordinate with the Department of Corrections to get the inmate crews in there to get all of the debris that can be picked up by hand first. Then we’re going to deal with the county to get some local equipment and get the rest of the remaining, bigger items out of the lake and put it in dumpsters to haul it to a local landfill.”
Boyd said that, if all goes well, the project should only take about two weeks from start to finish, barring any inclement weather. All removal will be completed before lake levels are restored March 1.
“That’s kind of our game plan,” he said. “Our drop dead deadline, if you will, is when the lake starts rising. We feel like, barring any 10-15 day stretch of rain, we’ll be in good shape.”
Byard said that while they are aware there is likely debris lingering in other areas of the lake, the Sandy Creek area poses the biggest threat.
“I’m sure there’s small bits of debris all over this lake from the tornado – I know there is – but what we want to focus on from the state side is those immediate health and safety risks, which is definitely the Sandy Creek area,” he said. “We’re going to focus on that, and then as time progresses we can work on other areas, but our main push is that area.”
As previously reported, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed its mission to rid Lake Martin of the tornado debris on July 25. The mission started the week of June 13, and lake crews used a rig that consisted of a small barge and an extended reach trackhoe to clean the lake. They reported that they were going 18 feet below the water level and. upon completion, said that they had recovered a total of 15,157 cubic yards of debris.
Organizations represented at Thursday’s meeting and press conference were the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Department of Corrections, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, the Forestry Commission, Tallapoosa County and Alabama Power Company.
Anyone with questions about the cleanup project can call Byard at 205-280-2204, Boyd at 334-242-3836 or county EMA Director Joe Paul Boone at 256-825-1078.