A new boat launch was recently installed at Moulton City Lake to accommodate fisherman following the closure of a former access point at the city’s water treatment facility.
Moulton Water Superintendent Jay Johnson said the launch will allow non-motorized boats to access the lake, also known as Turkey Creek Reservoir, after a gate was closed at a former ramp last June.
Johnson said the gate was closed to the public this summer following an Environmental Protection Agency Act was passed, which restricted public access to many water treatment facilities nationwide.
“We—the city—are not trying to close the lake or prevent people from fishing. We are only preventing them access to Turkey Creek Lake through the immediate property of the water treatment plant,” he said following the closure.
An agreement with the Lawrence County Road Department and Moulton City saw the boat launch installed at Turkey Creek Reservoir on County Road 305 near Corinth Church. Another launch site at Moulton’s Sinking Creek Reservoir, on County Road 290, was also improved, Johnson said.
Each boat launch was installed by the county road department using city funds, Johnson added. He said the project cost about $3,000 for both installations.
“(Fishers) were already backing boats into the lake at the County Road 290 site, but it was real muddy. We just laid more gravel and built it up to make it more accessible,” he said. “We paid for the materials and labor, the county installed the launches.”
The projects began last month after several citizen complaints about the access point at the Water Treatment Plant being closed. Moulton resident Pat Warren and her son Zach raised concerns for fishers who access the lake through what was once the only public inlet at the city’s water plant.
“My dad’s favorite hobby is fishing on this lake. Earlier this year after driving out to the lake, he found the gate locked,” Zach Warren said. “There is now no other way to access this lake other than private property. Many local anglers, like my dad, with boats too small for Smith Lake or the Tennessee River, are left with no other options.”
Johnson said the access point was initially closed during the virus pandemic, but the ramp remained close in March after ADEM came to perform a sanitation survey.
Johnson also clarified an EPA act that was passed in 2002 restricting access to many water treatment facilities nationwide following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and perceived risk of bioterrorism.
Although the Homeland Security Act was passed, ADEM did little to enforce restrictions and left it up to Alabama cities how to manage the extra security and safety measures.
“In 2018, the Trump Administration passed the Infrastructure Act, so going forward, for (city departments) to be able to apply for funding, get any match grant money, or qualify for any principle forgiveness (on federal loans), you have to have an infrastructure plan,” Johnson explained.
In December, Johnson received approval from Moulton City Council to move forward with the infrastructure plan, which requires a 5-year risk and vulnerability assessment and an emergency response plan. During the first step in this process, Johnson said the city received “a verbal directive to restrict access” at the treatment plant on the lake to employees and city officials only.
He explained that visitors, who were once allowed to enter the lake from Moulton’s water treatment access road, drove by two cement water basins that hold treated water for the city’s utility department.
“That’s our drinking water. That’s the finished water product that goes to citizen’s houses, so if you had an accident, if someone drove right into it or threw something into it, that contaminates the entire water system,” he said. “Not only does our system serve the citizens of Moulton; West Lawrence Water (Cooperative) buys water from us. They purchase about 30 million gallons a month. It affects those residents as well.”
He said a third-party, Payne Pipeline, a company based out of Mobile, is helping Moulton’s Water Department perform and file the risk and vulnerability assessment, which has to be renewed every five years. He said his department has until June of 2021 to complete the infrastructure project and prove compliance with EPA and ADEM regulations.
Johnson reminded visitors that only paddle boats or mechanically propelled boats that are electronically operated are allowed on the lake. Boats with gasoline-powered engines are prohibited for the risk of contaminating Moulton drinking water.