New permit process in place for construction near river

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The new process for obtaining a construction permit for work near the Coosa River is intended to be simpler–though it could also take more time.

In the past, property owners were required to obtain permits from both Alabama Power and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before beginning construction, but after an agreement in February, Alabama Power will be the sole organization in charge of permitting.

“There are many issues at play: threatened or endangered species, water quality, historic artifacts and structures, and wetlands,” Alabama Power Spokesman Brandon Glover said. “This agreement gives [property owners] a single process to get all of those considerations reviewed at one time.”

But Glover said reviewing requests could take longer than it has in the past, something local contractor Ronnie Baker said will cause problems for construction workers.

“We used to be able to get a building permit three to four days before, but I’ve been waiting on one for five weeks,” Baker said recently. “Some of the contractors are losing jobs and losing employees because of the delay.”

Baker said he has been taking on projects on the shores of Lake Mitchell for about 40 years.

Glover said Alabama Power officials encourage property owners to contact the company as early as possible when considering any project that will cause soil disturbance.

“We want people to go ahead and give us a call before they meet with a contractor, so that they know what their options are,” he said.

People considering work at property on the Coosa River floodplain near lakes Mitchell, Lay and Jordan should call the Alabama Power office in Clanton at 280-4476.

Glover said requests are run through regulations put in place by several organizations, including the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Historic Preservation Committee.

“It’s a lot of review that’s been combined into one point of contact. This streamlines it,” he said. “It’s more review for us, but probably at the end of the day it will be better for homeowners, which means it’s better for us.”