By Clint Calhoun

This past winter (2016/2017), the Town of Lake Lure lowered the lake approximately 11 feet in order to make emergency repairs to a metal shaft that allows one of our generators to operate. Unfortunately, the lake lowering came about outside of the Town’s normal lake lowering cycle, and left many folks wondering if the lake would go down again as part of the normal cycle. Some may ask why it matters? Why do we need to lower the lake at all?

The Town lowers the lake on a three-year cycle for one primary reason: to allow lakefront property owners the opportunity to repair and maintain lake structures, particularly seawalls. Most lake structure work can be done with the lake up and most contractors would rather build boathouses and docks that way anyway, but certain types of shoreline stabilization work such as seawall installation and repairs generally have to wait until the water is down in order to be incompliance with state and federal environmental regulations. During the three years between drawdowns, because seawall repairs can be costly, many lakefront owners use that time to save money in preparation to make the necessary repairs. The Town’s regulations require that all lake structures (seawalls included) must be kept in a good state of repair. Many of these structures were built a long time ago, without any kind of engineering. Time and the erosive forces of wind and water cause failures that must be repaired, so property owners only get that opportunity once every three years. Because the lake went down a year early, a lot of lakefront owners were not prepared, either financially or in terms of planning, to have their work done, so the Town Council graciously voted to keep things on schedule by allowing the lake to go down again for the winter of 2017/18. The lake will start down on November 26th, remain down approximately 3 to 5 feet below full pond, starting back up on February 15th.

Seawall maintenance and shoreline stabilization are the primary ways that we protect our lake from shoreline erosion. While seawalls are no longer recognized as the best approach to shoreline management, there are a great number of them on Lake Lure and as a result, they must be maintained. In order to meet environmental requirements, rip rap must be installed at the toe of these structures when significant repairs are made to protect them from undercutting and wave action.

During the three-year drawdown cycle, the Town applies for what we call a “blanket permit” for shoreline stabilization. This permit is actually called a 401 certification and is issued through the NC Division of Water Resources (NC DWR). A 401 Certification is required by anyone doing work within the waters of the State, in compliance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. In order to alleviate the burden on property owners of having to apply for this certification, the Town has been allowing individual property owners to include their stabilization projects under the Town’s general permit (issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers for work in reservoirs), rather than requiring property owners to acquire their own 401 Certification. For individuals to submit their own application for a 401 Certification from NC DWR, they must submit a $240 fee, along with drawings/plans and photographs. With the Town taking care of the application, lakefront property owners pay nothing to participate other than their design and labor costs.

So how do you get in on this super deal? You must have a plan that details the work to be done within the waters of Lake Lure. If you are making significant repairs to a seawall (replacing large sections of wall, pouring new footers, etc.) or building a new seawall, engineered drawings are a requirement. For just rip rap stabilization, a drawing must be provided that details the type of work and where the work will take place along the shoreline. Along with proper drawings, participants must submit a Shoreline Stabilization Permit application to the Environmental Management Officer of the Town.

Once all permit applications have been submitted and received, the Environmental Management Officer then compiles the applications, plans and drawings, and submits a Pre-Construction Notification (PCN), maps, and a project narrative to the NC DWR, who then reviews the application and issues a 401 Certification. The Town also pays the $240 or $575 fee (depending on the number of linear feet of shoreline impacted) on behalf of the participants.

Once the application is submitted to NC DWR, they have 60 days to review the application, so that means that the Town has to get everything to the State in a timely fashion, as in no later than September 1st, 2017. After September 1st, applicants will be required to obtain individual 401 Certifications for their projects due to the processing time. Compiling applications, filling out the PCN, and writing the narrative is quite an extensive, time-consuming process if a large number of property owners participate; this is why we have to require a deadline in order to prepare the application and get it submitted, allowing time for corrections if the application gets rejected or requires amendments.

As of now the Environmental Management Officer is accepting Shoreline Stabilization applications for the winter, so if you plan to participate in the Town’s “blanket” 401 Certification then please get your applications, plans, drawings, and photographs in as soon as possible and before September 1st, 2017. If anyone is unable to get their application in to the Town by September 1st, but still plan to do shoreline stabilization work, you must have a 401 Certification from NC DWR to do the work, you must still get a Shoreline Stabilization Permit from the Town, and you must begin work before January 17th, 2018, particularly if concrete will be used. No applications will be accepted for anything other than rip rap armoring after January 17th, 2018, as concrete must have 28 days of cure time before coming in contact with water.

We hope everyone has a great summer and if you have questions regarding shoreline stabilizations and what you might need, feel free to contact Lake Operations. The Environmental Management Officer can be reached at (828)625-9983 ext. 502 or at eco@townoflakelure.com.

Clint Calhoun is a naturalist and biologist and has worked in Hickory Nut Gorge for over 20 years. He is currently the Environmental Management Officer for the Town of Lake Lure. Check out Clint’s blog at http://clintcalhounadventures.blogspot.com.