Canton Marketplace lawsuit leads to $500,000 settlement for the protection of Etowah River, endangered species

Press Room

Joe Cook, Executive Director & Riverkeeper,
or Katie Owens, Program Coordinator, Coosa River Basin Initiative, 706-232-2724
Justine Thompson, Executive Director, GreenLaw, 404-659-3122
Dr. Robert Keller, Executive Director, Mountain Land Conservation Trust of Georgia, 706-253-4077

(Canton, Georgia, June 23, 2007) Today, the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) and Sembler Atlanta, Inc. reached an agreement resolving two lawsuits that will provide for significant protection of sensitive lands in the Upper Etowah River Basin. The agreement requires that Sembler, developers of a large shopping center in Canton, pay $500,000 to the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia to protect property in critical habitat areas for federally protected fish species.

Additionally, Sembler agreed to reduce impacts to streams on the site of its proposed shopping mall by 25 percent, implement advanced erosion and sediment control measures during construction, conduct extensive biological monitoring of impacted streams on the site and reimburse CRBI for expert expenses incurred during the legal appeal.
“Our hope is that this settlement sends a message to Sembler and other developers,” said Joe Cook, CRBI Executive Director. “We need to find ways to develop in the steeply sloped Piedmont that protect our smallest streams. If developers continue to treat these streams as if they were a product in liquidation, they can expect CRBI and other citizen groups to take action.”

With legal representation from GreenLaw [previously the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest], in November, CRBI filed a legal challenge to a stream buffer variance issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) permitting the piping and filling of streams on the site, and later challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) 404 permit issued for the project.

“This agreement will result in significant protection of one of Georgia’s most important public resources, our water,” Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw [previously the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest], a nonprofit that provides legal services to Georgia’s environmental community, “yet I continue to be disappointed that we are forced to do the job that should have been done by the government agencies charged with protecting these resources.”
The original plans for the Canton Marketplace site, located at I-575 and Ga. 20 in Canton, would have called for the piping and filling of 5,350 feet of headwater streams feeding Canton Creek, considered habitat for the federally protected Cherokee darter. Under the agreement, Sembler has eliminated an in-stream stormwater detention pond and reduced its total impacts to streams to 4,016 linear feet.

Funds for protection of sensitive lands in the Upper Etowah River Basin will have a direct impact on water quality in the Etowah River and Lake Allatoona in Cherokee County and will protect habitat for the federally listed Cherokee, Etowah and amber darters.