The justification for the farm pond exemption to the federal Clean Water Act that Oconee County farmer Tony Townley received for a lake he built this spring on property he owns on Aycock Road remains hidden from the public because of an interpretation of a section of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.
Chalmer Rennie from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington used that justification for denying an appeal I had made of an earlier decision by Sharon Gipson from the Athens office of NRCS.
Gipson refused in April to provide me with details of Townley’s application for the farm pond exemption. The lake is on Frazier Creek, which is a tributary of the Apalachee River.
Rennie said the 2008 act of Congress prohibited him from releasing the information that was used by NRCS to justify the decision to classify the pond as being needed for farm purposes.
Specifically, Rennie wrote me in late June, he would not release information on location of the pond itself, acres of land served, herd sizes and the water needs of Townley.
That means that the public has no way to understand the decision made by NRCS to grant the exemption.
And the story gets even more confusing. The U.S. Corps of Engineers interprets the Food, Conservation and Energy Act differently. It released just that kind of information to me to explain the exemption Townley received for another lake he built.
The new lake backs up to a culvert for Frazier Creek that runs under Aycock Road.
Earlier this summer the county did some work on that culvert. Emil Beshara, public works director, said it was "routine maintenance."
The county also put up signs indicating that the roadway crossing that culvert has somehow become dangerous enough to need new warning signs.
For details on the lake, redacted documents and the culvert, go to Oconee County Observations.