Georgia seeks wetlands permits for Rivian site

Local development authority also to seek bids for grading land.

The state of Georgia’s economic development agency on Friday applied for certain federal wetlands permits for the planned Rivian electric vehicle factory. A local authority, meanwhile, will soon solicit bids to grade the 2,000-acre site east of Atlanta.

The state Department of Economic Development said it has applied with the Army Corps of Engineers for Clean Water Act Section 404 permits, which regulate the discharge of fill dirt or dredged material into waterways and wetlands. Rivian plans a $5 billion EV and battery factory along I-20 between Social Circle and Rutledge where it will employ 7,500.

The announcement comes just days after the state disclosed an agreement with Rivian concerning incentives and environmental standards. Full details of the agreement have not been made public but are expected to be released early next week after the documents are signed, state officials have said. A site plan will also be released at that time, a state spokeswoman said.

“The stream and wetland permitting and site grading processes will show that the state is following through on our commitments to follow established codes for site grading and protect local groundwater quality,” Pat Wilson, the state’s economic development commissioner, said in a news release. “Not only is Rivian focused on becoming part of the fabric of their new community, but they want to build an attractive operation that adds value to the local business ecosystem, minimizes environmental impact, and supports conservation efforts.”

The state has said the Rivian project will abide by all state and federal permitting requirements.

Location of Rivian's $5 billion electric vehicle factory east of Atlanta. The company’s site, about 2,000 acres along I-20 between the towns of Social Circle and Rutledge in southern Walton and Morgan counties, is about an hour’s drive from Atlanta and can pull from the metro area’s talent pool to fill its 7,500 planned jobs. Work on Rivian’s plant is slated to start this summer at a 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

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Credit: ArLuther Lee

Opponents of the Rivian plant have raised many concerns about the future factory. Among them are fears of runoff and pollution affecting the watershed and privately owned wells, which supply much of the drinking water to nearby residents.

At a community meeting earlier this month, residents were angry that they still have few details about plans to mitigate environmental impacts.

In December, Gov. Brian Kemp and Rivian formally announced plans for a $5 billion electric vehicle plant on a site in southern Walton and Morgan counties.

The state later took over development of the property after local opposition to the plans threatened to derail what Kemp has called the largest economic development project in state history.

The state formed four committees to hear community feedback on different aspects of the project, and each is expected to hold four meetings. The state held the first of four planned meetings of the site design and environmental impact panel on April 18.

“This committee is supposedly tasked with ensuring compliance with local, state and federal ordinances, but we don’t even know what the project looks like yet,” Jaclyn Brass, an attorney representing opposition group Morgan Land, Sky and Water Preservation Inc., said at the first meeting.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Athens Regional Technical College’s Monroe campus at 212 Bryant Road.

Jerry Silvio, chairman of the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties (JDA), said “protecting local groundwater quality is a top priority that we all share.”

The Section 404 permitting process is expected to take six to nine months, the release said.

The JDA expects to solicit bids for grading work in the next few weeks. Grading is expected to start in areas that do not contain wetlands as soon as this summer, the release said.

A note of disclosure

Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns about a 4% stake in Rivian and supplies services to the company. Sandy Schwartz, a Cox executive who oversees the AJC, is on Rivian’s board of directors and holds stock personally. He does not take part in the AJC’s coverage of Rivian.