Special to the Opelika Observer

House Bill 468 and Senate Bill 327 became law last Wednesday without Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature, pieces of legislation that will annex 1,250 acres into the corporate limits of the City of Opelika. According to City Attorney Guy Gunter, the law will go into effect on Aug. 1.

Following is a previous release from the City of Opelika thanking Rep. Debbie Wood and Sen. Tom Whatley for their efforts in getting those laws passed:

Mayor Gary Fuller and the Opelika City Council would like to express their deepest appreciation to Sen. Tom Whatley and Rep. Debbie Wood for sponsoring legislative bills SB327 and HB468, which annexed 1,250 acres into the corporate limits of the City of Opelika. The bills passed the Alabama Senate and House on May 9. The legislation became effective May 20 without Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature.

Sen. Randy Price and House members Chris Blackshear, Jeremy Gray, Joe Lovvorn and Pebblin Warren were also instrumental in helping these bills pass.

“This was truly a good piece of local legislation,” Price said.

“I cannot thank our local delegation enough for making this happen. This is significant in protecting the Saugahatchee Watershed, and more importantly, Saugahatchee lake, Opelika’s primary source of drinking water. Opelika Utilities operates a state-of-the-art water filter plant at Saugahatchee Lake and provides up to three million gallons of water each day to the City of Auburn.  Opelika furnishes 100% of the water to the Beulah Water Authority and is the back-up supplier to all other water authorities in Lee County. We are very fortunate here in Lee County to have leaders who are willing to fight for what is right. We are excited, but our citizens are the ones who truly benefit,” said Mayor Gary Fuller.

These bills were introduced as a way to protect the Auburn-Opelika area’s community, land and watershed. In February, CreekWood Resources, LLC, applied for air and water permits for a proposed granite quarry, known as CreekWood Resources. The quarry would have been located on part of the land that is now being annexed into the city. It became abundantly clear that the quarry could have serious environmental impacts for the citizens of Opelika. Annexation of this land will give the city tools to address water quality issues.

The annexed territory is located one mile from Grand National Golf Course, two miles from the Marriott Hotel and hundreds of homes, and one mile from Storybook Farms. Trucks from the quarry would have passed three local schools (Morris Avenue, Jeter and Opelika High School), as well as Southern Union State Community College.

“We had a great deal of support during this ordeal. We live in an amazing place, where people rally together for the betterment of our community.  We’re grateful for the support of Mayor Anders and the City of Auburn, Mayor Copeland and the City of Smith Station, Dr. David Bronner and the Retirement System of Alabama, Dr. Mark Neighbors and Opelika City Schools, Opelika Utilities, as well as Judge English and the Lee County Commission. Their support was instrumental in opposing the quarry,” Mayor Fuller added.

Pictured in the map above/below is the 1,250 that is annexed into the Opelika city limits pending Governor Ivey’s signature.

Senator Whatley sponsored the bill in the Senate and Rep. Debbie Wood sponsored it in the House. This is significant in protecting the Saugahatchee Watershed. Saugahatchee Lake is Opelika’s primary source of drinking water, and the Opelika Utilities Board has a state-of-the-art filter plant on the lake’s shores. The City of Auburn can take up to three million gallons a day from Opelika and other water authorities in Lee County also have agreements with Opelika for water.

Weyerhauser’s Governmental Relations Manager Monte Simpson issued the following statement to the Observer about the bill’s passage:

“When members of the Opelika community expressed concerns about the proposed quarry, Weyerhaeuser respected those concerns, acted in good faith and asked the mineral lessee to withdraw the permit — which they did. Our plan is to continue sustainable forestry and hunting operations on our land in the county, and we were surprised and disappointed to learn the city moved forward with forced annexation. We are currently assessing our options regarding the annexation.”