VOL. 133 | NO. 18 | Wednesday, January 24, 2018
State Dropping Plans to Dump Megasite Wastewater Near Randolph
By Patrick Lantrip
After vocal opposition from residents in and around the community of Randolph, Tennessee, state officials have announced they are withdrawing their current plans for the Memphis Regional Megasite’s 35-mile long wastewater pipeline.
In its place, the Tennessee Department of General Services, which is handling the application process for the state, will submit an amended application to extend the pipeline an additional four miles to a deeper section of the Mississippi River that also avoids Randolph.
The state hopes this new plan finally gets a green light from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 400 letters were sent to TDEC opposing the original wastewater plan.
“We have, I think, a very defined strategy and plan to get to what we call shovel-ready,” Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner Bob Rolfe told the Memphis Regional Megasite Authority board Monday, Jan. 22. “And what we are defining as shovel-ready is removing any hurdles, obstacles, permits, funding, resources, etc. to allow us to be able to sit down and talk with a potential company.”
Rolfe said the new plan, which would pipe sewage from the megasite in Haywood County through Tipton County, will now empty into a nearly 100-foot deep portion of the Mississippi River where the currents are stronger.
“TDEC and the Corps have both shared with us that this new outfall, with all of the necessary treatments upstream, are such that it will allow them to be in position to hopefully issue a permit,” Rolfe said.
The issue of the how the 4,100-acre, landlocked megasite will treat its sewage is considered one of the last major hurdles to clear before the massive project is deemed “shovel-ready” – a term that has become ubiquitous in development circles after the site was dropped from consideration by Japanese automaker Toyota-Mazda for its $1.6 billion manufacturing facility.
The state is also in the process of obtaining the last remaining easements from land owners along the proposed pipeline, another lingering hurdle.
Haywood County attorney Michael Banks said that to date, 158 land owners have signed easements, with 18 more expected to do so.
However, there are still 30 residents who have refused to sign the easements, he added.
“Of the 30 noes we have, five or six were yeses until the public hearing and the pressure put on by the Randolph community,” Banks said. “I feel like if we move the outfall, then those five or six will turn around and sign the easement, but for all intents and purposes, we’ve gotten all the signatures that we’re going to get and have our list ready for the (state) attorney general’s office.”
Changes to the pipeline route will negate the need for roughly 10 of the easements in question, Banks said, and described the pending legal action as a two-step process.
“The attorney general’s office would file the imminent domain action against the landowners and then the court, within a very short period of time, around 45 to 90 days, will make a decision on if the land that is needed is for a public purpose and if the court finds that it is, then it would grant that easement to the state,” he said.
The second step is determining how much an easement is worth, but no matter how long a landowner might argue for a dollar amount, that would not hold up the project at all, he said.