Those traveling on Aycock Road in recent months are likely to have noticed the construction of a small lake that comes up to the roadway west of where Aycock Road intersects Matthews Road in western Oconee County.
The lake is part of an elaborate irrigation system that local businessman Tony Townley has built to irrigate his extensive hayfields and pastures in the area southeast of North Oconee High School.
If Townley had built the Aycock Road and the other small lakes he has constructed for something other than farm purposes, he would have had to have gone through an elaborate procedure requiring him to get permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to mitigate the damages done to the streams and wetlands.
Because Townley’s lakes and ponds are classified as farm ponds, he was exempt from the usual regulation of federal waterways required by the national Clean Water Act.
That exemption allowed him to dredge and fill Frazier Creek to create a series of ponds and lakes on a major tributary to the Apalachee River.
The irony that farmers are exempted from regulations to protect streams and wetlands led me on a several-month-long examination of the farm pond exemption to the Clean Water Act and its application in Oconee County.
Through Freedom of Information Act requests, I was able to learn of the history of Townley’s use of the farm pond exemption on his extensive land holdings in the county. Those holdings are set to expand significantly in August through acquisition of the University of Georgia Plant Science Farm.
The result of this investigation is a detailed, two-part posting that explains the farm pond exemption and its administration, with particular focus on the now numerous ponds and small lakes of Frazier Creek.
To read the two postings, please go to Oconee County Observations.