Downed trees in Gap Creek area alarm residents

Photo by Dave Boyd
Downed trees piling up in a portion of Gap Creek have residents living near the creek area worried about potential flooding hazards.

By Thomas Wilson

   Numerous downed trees in the upper portion of Gap Creek are causing concern among residents living along Gap Creek Road who fear the flooding that destroyed bridges and water lines late last year could become more severe this spring.
   "We have got a real problem," said Olen Pate, 1955 Gap Creek Road, who pointed out the damage and potential problems facing the area to Star staff on Friday. "I'm afraid if this is allowed, we'll have logs coming down the road rather than in the creek."
   The upper stretch of Gap Creek above Tester Road has a visibly large amount of downed trees lying across or near the creek. During the flooding in November, water carrying trees down the creek washed away at least four private bridges extending over Gap Creek to residential properties through the 1900 to 2400 residential address area of Gap Creek Road.
   Pate said he had two enormous tree stumps removed that had been washed beneath the access bridge of his property to the Gap Creek Road after heavy rainfall caused localized flooding in December.
   Citizens claim the problem resulted from clear-cutting sanctioned by the USDA Forest Service in recent years. Pate said the unseasonably heavy rainfall of the past year seemed to have displaced the trees out of the forest and closer to the creek.
   Many citizens living along Gap Creek, as well as churches, use access bridges over Gap Creek for motorists to reach their properties. Ralph Hopson, 2154 Gap Creek Road, saw his access bridge washed away in the November flood.
   "They keep washing down," Hopson said of the trees. The flooding also took out Hopson's water line and eroded at least four feet from the creek bank in front of his home. The Carter County Highway Department has since replaced several bridges for residents.
   Hopson said he had talked with a Forest Service official about his concerns with trees in Gap Creek, but was told the flooding problem was not the problem of the Forest Service.
   "He said 'it was an 'act of God' and we can't do nothing about it," said Hopson.
   Telephone calls placed to the Forest Service offices in Jonesborough and Greeneville were not answered on Friday. The actual removal of the trees from the Creek could require regulatory approval of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation through an Aquatic Resources Alteration Permit.