Debris at West Point Lake affecting tourism

Published 6:54 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

BY Alicia Hill

LaGrange Daily-News

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council heard from Joey Mines, a local fisherman who has been featured in magazines and on television programs across the country, who appealed to the council to take more action to improve West Point Lake.   

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According to Mines, visitors travel from all over the country to fish in West Point Lake, but the sometimes-overwhelming amount of trash can discourage fishermen from returning.

“This problem can be solved with a little bit of money,” Mines said. “I would say for between $100,000 and $200,000 we could hire two teams with pontoon boats … and in six months, they could eliminate it.”

However, the prospect of a new annual expenditure of $100,000 would be a major decision for the council, considering it would constitute more financial support from the city for the lake — only a small portion of which is within the LaGrange city limits — than the Harmony House domestic violence shelter, Keep Troup Beautiful, Communities in Schools, LaGrange Personal Aid, CASA of Troup County and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper combined. That did not mean that the council was willing to ignore the trash being swept into the lake though.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said that he has been part of discussions with local fishermen and other people concerned about the lake who also hope to see less trash in the lake.

“They want somebody — city, county, [the Army Corps of Engineers] — to put in trash trappers up at the headwaters of the lake because they say most of this trash is coming down the river,” Thornton said. “It is not local trash from LaGrange and Troup County. [It would] try to catch it before it gets into the lake. The theory is that you spend 100 grand cleaning up the lake, but in the year, there is more trash coming down.”

However, Thornton noted that even that proposal would require a significant financial commitment for installation and maintenance. Council Member Nathan Gaskin asked if other groups would be able to help pay for the trash trapper.

“Where does the state stand on pollution on the Chattahoochee?” Gaskin asked. “Is there any way that we can get money from them? … I know that our current governor through his speeches said he is looking for projects that are shovel ready, so if we set in line trash trappers at the lake head, could we get the state to pay for it?”

Thornton said that it may be possible to get someone to pay for the equipment needed for the trash trappers, but the City of LaGrange would likely have to fund ongoing maintenance, including cleaning out the trap daily. Mines maintained that the investment would be worth it for the local economy.

“I have a lot of customers that get on my boat, and when they get out there … there are days when you can’t run your boat because of the trash,” Mines said. “It is that thick. … I’ve had people cancel trips with me. I had a three-day trip last year, and the first day we went out, we actually caught a bunch of fish, but we had to wade through the trash to get to the spot. They canceled the next two days [because of the trash].”

Mines also said that tournaments had chosen other locations because of concerns about trash.

“This is something that affects all of us,” Mines said. “It affects all of these hotels. It affects the restaurants because when you have a family come down, they see that mess in the lake.”

Mines also offered the city a discount to advertise on his show, “Outdoors with Joey Mines.” Gaskin asked if that kind of advertisement could be covered under existing tourism funding, and Thornton confirmed that it could.