By Valerie Hoffman
Town leaders learned mid February that through the completion of a comprehensive four phase plan of repairs, the life of the historic Lake Lure Hydroelectric dam can be extended by another fifty years.
That was the good news delivered by Dr. B. Dan Marks Ph.D., to Mayor Kevin Cooley and the Lake Lure Town Council during its annual board and staff retreat on Feb. 7th.
Dr. Marks, a leading expert in the field of dam safety, presented the final inspection report about a month earlier than originally expected. In it, he recommends four comprehensive phases to remedy the dam’s multiple issues. He anticipates that the cost of repairs will be between $4.5 and $5 million dollars and will take about five years to complete.
With the full report in hand, the Town now has a more thorough representation of the challenges and overall estimated cost of corrective action. Moving forward Town leaders will determine a specific strategy for next steps in repairs and how to fund them.
“Our immediate next steps will be to collaborate with the North Carolina Dam Inspection Engineer to confirm the report’s validity and efficacy in identifying the dam’s issues and what needs to be done to address them, and; secondly to identify potential funding sources and methods to pay for the rehabilitation,” said Mayor Cooley.
While the repairs will be expensive, Dr. Marks indicated that the types of repairs that need to be made can likely be completed without drawing down the lake any lower than normal drawdown levels.
The comprehensive two-part study was initiated by the Town of Lake Lure in order to evaluate the structural integrity, stability and overall safety of the aging dam. Phase one involved a visual examination of the dam with extensive research on its history and construction design, as well as a theoretical analysis of safety and structural integrity. Phase two focused on physical testing and measurements which resulted in a more defined safety and structural analysis based on the actual test results and measurements.
During his presentation, Dr. Marks explained that not all components of the dam exhibit the same level or degree of degradation or deterioration. For example, bedrock and groundwater conditions at some of the bays are worse than in other locations. These variances in performance were used to establish priorities in the overall Dam Remediation Construction Plan. He also explained that some construction would be associated with operations as opposed to safety.
After hearing the presentation, the Town Council again reaffirmed its commitment to finding a way to fund the repairs, keep citizens informed, and protect the recreational livelihood of the lake for residents and visitors alike.
Dr. Marks has said from the beginning that, although the dam’s issues are serious, he has also indicated that solutions do exist and that repairs can take place over time.
Even before the study was commissioned, the Town had begun to take several important steps in recent years to address aging infrastructure challenges. Since 2012, approximately $1.26 million has been directed toward the dam and hydroelectric related repairs, updates, and replacement of equipment.
Of the situation, Town leaders also point out that it is important to remember that the issues associated with the dam have occurred slowly over time. Routine maintenance activities at the Lake Lure Dam have taken place with regularity, but have focused primarily on the powerhouse equipment, intake gate and spillway gates. No significant structural repairs have been made.
Valerie Hoffman is Brand Manager and Public Information Officer for the Town of Lake Lure.