This is a flagship project for [rural] infrastructure and sustainability of a valuable water resource. Our vision is for economic and recreational development such as a national park, given the historic beauty of the mills and the Chattahoochee River. Other than a unique configuration, the site is well positioned geographically to serve the surrounding area’s needs in housing, shopping and water entertainment. The project would be undertaken by the Chattahoochee Foundation, a public, non-profit foundation in Valley, of which WHATiF 88 is a member.
In 1980, Valley was founded with the incorporation of four mill towns. Originally built in 1866, Langdale Mill was one of these Textile mills that provided the bulk of employment in Valley, until their closure in the mid-1990s due to global competitive headwinds faced by the US Textile Industry. Starting in 1984, the city lost approximately 26,000 workers formerly employed by the textile industry. The estimated population of Valley is now 12,000, averaging $40,000 per capita income. People travel a 30-mile radius to go to work while they used to drive [6 miles] into the community.
Aerial view of the cleanup site, Chattahoochee River at Langdale in Valley, Alabama
More housing will bring jobs to Valley given the low cost of living. The Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA), an active partner in Valley’s economic renewal plans, is focusing on attracting food and beverage companies, logistics, and businesses that can utilize the water resource. Over the river in West Point, GA, Kia Motors built a $1 billion manufacturing facility on 2,200 acres in 2008. The facility has produced more than 2.5 million vehicles and has created more than 15,000 jobs, including plant workers and suppliers. At 23 miles southeast of Valley is Auburn University with 30,000 students. The mill’s rehabilitation will target residents/students from neighboring Auburn and West Point, with affordable and pleasant housing options.
Adjacent to the 24-acre Langdale Mill is Georgia Power’s property that runs across the river into the Georgia side and comprises a 1-mw hydro-electrical plant sitting on an island. The Foundation has approached Georgia Power about exploring the donation of their riverfront property and island to The Chattahoochee Foundation, a public, non-profit corporation based in Valley, Alabama and, thereby, potentially creating a significant tax benefit to Georgia Power’s shareholders with the donation. Georgia Power has owned the property since 1931-32. Combining the Georgia Power land and Langdale Mill into the foundation will create a domain of 50-100 acres. It is cheaper for Georgia Power to decommission the two dams than continue to commission them with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) every 20 years. In December 2018, Georgia Power submitted to FERC an application to decommission the dam, in a process planned to end in 2023.
Breaching the two dams would create an exciting “run-of-the-river” rapids for canoeing, kayaking and rafting along the 22 miles between West Point Dam and Lake Harding, enhancing the shoals for fishing opportunities and complementing the world-class Whitewater Rapids 32 miles downstream in Columbus, GA , creating an exceptional family-focused, regional recreational opportunity to explore the many wonders of The Chattahoochee River.
Located within 30 minutes of Auburn University; 45 minutes of Columbus, GA; an hour and a half from Atlanta, GA and Montgomery, AL; and 2 hours from Birmingham, AL, this represents is a unique opportunity to make a wonderful, nature-based experience available and easily accessible to the whole region.
Ongoing demolition phase for cleanup
The opportunity for WHATiF 88 is to facilitate, arrange, supervise, and invest in a workforce housing project for approximately 3,000 residents. This is a multi-year project that will require permitting and significant grants before approaching financial partners. The project will entail a detailed feasibility study, appropriate incentives and the commission of a master plan. A Commercial building to service the residents’ needs will offer a recreation center – paintball, boating, fishing, swimming, rafters, etc.- retail shops, food and entertainment, city and county services center.
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