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Jones Creek to Columbia County: It's not over

EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) - A group of Columbia County golf club owners claim a judge's ruling in a federal lawsuit against the county isn't the end of the battle.  They say the litigation over who's responsible for flooding in Jones Creek is far from over. 

When the rain falls in Jones Creek, near Willow Lake, flooding impacts homeowners and golfers.  And there are other spots also impacted.  That's the source of the lawsuit.  While Columbia County counts a recent federal ruling as a victory, the golf club says not so fast. 

"Anybody at Columbia County that says they have won the case, that the case is over is either not informed or misrepresenting the state of affairs," said Harry Revell, Jones Creek Counsel.

Six years ago Jones Creek Golf Club took Columbia County and other defendants to court over rain waters flooding Willow Lake.  Jones Creek alleged the county violated the Clean Water Act by contributing to sediment deposits there.

This week, a federal judge sided with Columbia County.  NewsChannel 6 sat down exclusively with county administrator Scott Johnson who talked about the case publicly for the first time.

"I believe that there was good case law out there that says that Columbia County can't be held responsible for every piece of sediment or dirt that may just happen to be carried in a stream somewhere that's not even on Columbia County property," Johns stated. 

Jones Creek filed a separate lawsuit in the Superior Court of Columbia County after federal court released remaining state law claims.  In that case, Attorney Revell said the county failed to manage storm water within the Willow Lake watershed, causing flooding and damage to Jones Creek's property.

The owners seek an injunction that requires the county to reduce water coming onto the property, which Revell said essentially means the problem would be fixed. 

He added, "We're asking for damages from Columbia County for their years of failing to do that.  It resulted in flooding of the pond.  You see the pond has filled up with silt.  And the flooding events that essentially shut down this golf course and made it a 14 hole golf course rather than an 18 hole golf course."

Those holes on the Jones Creek golf course, which are holes 11,12 and 13 can be seen under water in a video shared by Ray Mundy, General Manager at the Jones Creek Golf Course.  Also in the lawsuit, Jones Creek claims flooding stems from a storm water management issue from county property and has destroyed a bridge at least twice.

Johnson said the county awaits what will happen in court. 

"Columbia County contends that our property is not the contribution to the Willow Lake problem," he said.  "There are a lot of other entities involved here and there were a lot of other people named in the lawsuit originally."

The federal case is over, but the state case is not.  And in the state case, Jones Creek will need to prove that the county's property caused damage to Jones Creek.  Revell said this case could take months before it goes to trial.  We will stay on top of it.

A members and homeowners meeting will be held at the Jones Creek Clubhouse on Thursday, April 19, 2018, at 6:30 pm to discuss this matter further and answer questions. The meeting is open to Jones Creek members and residents and any interested citizens of Columbia County.

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins 


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