Original story; see the latest update (Aug. 7):
Heavy rain in Sewanee last weekend caused the erosion control measures installed as part of the golf course renovation project to fail. This breach resulted in a release of stormwater and silt into Shakerag Hollow. The university is doing all it can to contain the damage, take corrective measures, and make sure this does not happen again.
Before the university broke ground last fall for the renovation of its historic golf course, it was required by the state to have an erosion control plan in place to comply with stream protection and erosion rules. The university filed such a plan and it was approved. Members of the administration are now looking into the implementation of the plan and the adequacy of the measures that were in place.
After an exceptionally dry spring and early summer, the drought has broken and recently Sewanee has received frequent heavy downpours. The erosion control structures that were in place at the golf course were not effective. Their failure resulted in a large release of stormwater into Shakerag Hollow.
“Shakerag Hollow is a treasured Sewanee location; generations of students have hiked, studied and conducted research on its slopes. In fact, the forest there has been lauded as one of the South’s most spectacular,” said John McCardell, Sewanee’s vice-chancellor and president. “No one at the university finds what happened acceptable, and we will resolve the situation swiftly and in the most comprehensive way possible.”
University administrators detected the runoff as it happened, and a process was set in motion almost immediately to investigate and correct the stormwater retention issues at the golf course. The project engineer has designed new erosion control systems and those are being put in place today to ensure that another rainstorm will not cause further damage.
“We will solve this issue in a way that is not only exemplary, but permanent,” said McCardell.
Check back here regularly for updates on the correction of this issue.
Update July 26:
Assistant Provost Jon Evans, Domain Manager Nate Wilson, and Construction Manager Reggie Vachon, along with Director of Sustainability Integration Marvin Pate, have been investigating last weekend’s failure of the golf course erosion control system. They started with a review of the original storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) that was prepared by an engineer and submitted to and accepted by TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation - Division of Water Pollution Control). After reviewing the plans again, the university feels confident that the original stormwater management plan was adequate for the Sewanee Golf Course Renovation Project.
As with all projects of this nature, a certified Tennessee SWPPP inspector was assigned to monitor the stormwater controls at least twice a week during the course of the project. The Sewanee team has met with the inspector and reviewed his reports, which confirm that the stormwater pollution prevention plans for the golf course were installed as designed and were functioning as expected.
However, upon reviewing project reports, pictures, and on-site conditions this week, it appears that some portions of the originally-installed stormwater abatement measures were removed in June. The removal was neither authorized by the university nor reported by the inspector. In addition, more ground was cleared more quickly than was originally anticipated in the stormwater plan, exceeding what was allowed for by the engineer. These alterations had very damaging consequences; the remaining stormwater abatement measures failed in multiple places on July 21.
The evaluation of what happened to the failed erosion control systems continues. As part of the review, the university has asked the primary contractor to review these same reports and to provide his views on the management of the stormwater controls for the project. The university has asked golf course designer Gil Hanse to provide his assessment as well.
Significant improvements have been made this week to the golf course erosion control systems. The team from the university, the engineer, the inspector, and the contractor have confirmed that the proper controls now are back in place. New measures being put in place at each of the failed locations are more than sufficient to protect us going forward.
The university has requested that state-of-the-art runoff abatement measures be designed for each of these locations so that after construction is complete, these flow points will not allow runoff into Shakerag Hollow. In addition, a large retention pond has been requested, with a pumping system to send water to Lake Torian to allow a closed-loop system to recirculate irrigation water.
In addition, the Vice-Chancellor and Provost have made a change to university policy as a corrective action to prevent future water quality problems associated with construction on campus. Assistant Provost for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Jon Evans now has the authority to halt construction and require immediate measures to be taken if that office detects any potential environmental problems on the job site. University staff members and contractors associated with a construction project will report to the Assistant Provost for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability on all environment-related issues.
The university will continue to assess and monitor the effect of the runoff in Shakerag Hollow. Time will be the ultimate healer, but a restoration plan is being considered. It is possible that removal of some sediment from the creek could shorten the natural cleaning period.
The trail through Shakerag Hollow is walkable, though observers will notice sediment in the water. At the creek’s confluence with Mud Creek, there is some rock staining and sediment. However, the majority of the sediment seems to have dropped out of the water by the time the creek reaches the Shakerag Hollow trail.
Significant improvements were made in late July to the golf course erosion control systems. Regular rainfall since then has given the university opportunities to confirm that the enhanced systems are working and make any changes needed.
Last week golf course designer Gil Hanse met with Assistant Provost Jon Evans, the construction managers, Nate Wilson, John Vineyard, and the project’s stormwater engineer to discuss plans for the golf course after its completion. Evans named three primary stewardship concerns to be addressed: water quantity, water quality and water conservation.
The team arrived at several approaches that, combined, should catch run-off and retain or divert it; filter stormwater from the golf course; and redirect water into Lake Torian to ensure water for irrigation needs. The concept and plans are expected to be approved soon and implemented immediately thereafter. More details will be available after approval. The footprint of the new Sewanee Inn will also be part of this planning, so that any increase in impermeable surfaces and the resulting run-off are accounted for.