January 2023 update
The Chattooga Conservancy and the companies involved in the development of the High Hampton Resort in Cashiers, NC, reached a settlement in December 2022 of federal court litigation brought by the Chattooga Conservancy and an affected property owner on Fowler Creek, headwaters tributary of the Chattooga River. The consent decree settles the lawsuit, which was originally filed in September 2021 against High Hampton Land LLC, High Hampton Resort LLC, Daniel Communities LLC, and Fluor Daniel Services Corporation (formerly known as Daniel Management).
In the federal court litigation, the Chattooga Conservancy, together with a landowner on Fowler Creek downstream of High Hampton, alleged that the design and implementation of the erosion and sedimentation controls for development activities at High Hampton were inadequate. The lawsuit held that High Hampton’s prolonged erosion and sedimentation pollution of Fowler Creek and the Chattooga River was in violation of citizen suit provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act, and provisions of the North Carolina Sedimentation Pollution Control Act, and common law claims for trespass and nuisance.
The settlement payment from the High Hampton development companies is apportioned between the plaintiffs and their counsel. The Chattooga Conservancy’s settlement funds, as approved by the US Department of Justice, are to be applied to environmentally beneficial projects and programs aiming to protect and restore water quality in the Chattooga River watershed. These will include the monitoring and enforcing of settlement terms in regards to continued development at High Hampton, monitoring of any future dredging of the lake at the Chattooga Club on Fowler Creek, and monitoring any future dredging of Cashiers Lake, with the goal to prevent more sediment from continuing to impact the Chattooga River.
Resolving the litigation in this manner should serve to enhance the future protection and enjoyment of the treasured Chattooga River and its tributaries like Fowler Creek. As the Cashiers and Highlands areas experience more and more development pressure, we want developers and their land planners, engineers and contractors to pay careful heed to state erosion and sedimentation control requirements, and prioritize compliance with them to prevent further damage and degradation of our precious, clean headwater streams and the outstanding resource waters of the National Wild & Scenic Chattooga River.
The High Hampton Inn & Country Club located in Cashiers, NC has been undergoing major renovations and expanded development since 2019. The Chattooga Conservancy has been tracking this development since the public notice for commenting on the state and federal permits was released back in 2018. Over the past several months, we’ve been hearing from residents downstream of the development about impacts to the Chattooga’s headwaters.
The development is adjacent to Fowler Creek, a classified Wild Trout stream that flows into the Chattooga River. Residents who live along Fowler Creek have been contacting authorities to report sedimentation issues in the creek for over a year, but their complaints had largely been left unresolved. Heavy rains this spring amplified the siltation problems and prompted residents to again reach out to us for help. Conservancy staff visited the area to assess the conditions in the creek and immediately contacted the NC Division of Water Resources (DWR), who sent agents to conduct a site inspection of the High Hampton development.
On May 21, the DWR issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the High Hampton developers due to an erosion control failure impacting Fowler Creek and its tributaries. The NOV came with a 30-day period to respond and get the site back into compliance with state and federal regulations. Should the site not get back into compliance during this period, the site could be subjected to heavy daily fines.
The High Hampton developers responded quickly with a plan to rectify the erosion control failures, but unfortunately, downstream residents have yet to notice an improvement in Fowler Creek. The submitted remediation plans include removal of sediment from stream reaches within the property boundary, but not downstream. The Chattooga Conservancy will continue to monitor this clean-up effort and follow up with any additional actions as necessary.