Let public speak on Cashiers Lake

Chronicle Editorial

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should conduct a public hearing in Cashiers on a proposal to build a sprawling development on Cashiers Lake. Possible plans for the sizable project revealed in May include a 100-unit hotel and 55-home community on the northwest corner of Cashiers Lake. The area, owned by Cashiers Canoe Club Development LLC, is now mostly undeveloped woodland.

More than two dozen acres of the lake and surrounding wetlands might also be dredged as part of the project, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notice. The dredged soil would be removed by dump trucks to a disposal area between Zeb Alley Road and Cashiers Lake Road. An application for the development also calls for the creation of new roads in the area, plus additional sewer and utility lines. It is unclear how all this might affect the environmentally sensitive area below the manmade lake’s dam, which forms the headwaters for the Chattooga River.

By Cashiers standards anyway, this would be a huge project that would have a major transformative effect on Cashiers as a whole and likely significantly alter its historic village-like character.

This per se is neither good nor bad, but excluding the public from the process is. The corps, which oversees big dredging operations like the one proposed for Cashiers Lake, said in its May notice public hearing requests are usually be granted, unless “the issues raised are insubstantial.” The issues surrounding this project are far from insubstantial. Yet when contacted by the Chronicle last week, a corps spokesman said although some hearing requests had been received, it had not been decided if there would be one, nor was a time estimate given on how long the corps would take to make such a decision.

We encourage the corps to show greater transparency in its handling of this project. A simple first step would be to schedule a public hearing where Cashiers folks and learn more about the project and share their concerns.

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