By Kevin Cooley

Mayor, Town of Lake Lure

It’s certainly been a “challenging time” around here lately (FYI… I’m writing this article in mid-June). Tropical Storm Alberto caused quite a stir in and around the Gorge… flooding, mudslides, closed roads, damaged buildings (and parking lots), massive lake debris, power outages, etc. What I hope is not becoming a regular occurrence for us, States of Emergency (SOE’s) were declared in Lake Lure, Chimney Rock Village and Rutherford County. The Governor declared a regional State of Emergency for 13 counties in western NC and visited the Gorge with a delegation including our State Emergency Management Director. As a new mayor, I admit to being a little intimidated when I had to declare my first (and, hopefully, last) SOE.

Like the historic Party Rock Fire…that also caused an SOE… Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village once again rallied to meet the challenge and we performed well preparing for the event, dealing with it as it occurred and after it during the recovery stage. Management of our lake levels to create “storage” for the river surge and then regulating the discharge at the dam through the flood gates was a very difficult task… balancing the interests of the public who wanted to use the lake for its recreational purpose while protecting our sensitive dam which is in need and about to receive much-needed repairs and renovation. Our wonderful citizens, as always, turned out to help our Town staff in the intensive efforts after the storm to remove the massive amounts of floating debris that were deposited in the lake. Our community can once again take a well-deserved bow for a great performance!

Not that we needed another reminder of the importance and value of our lake to our community… this storm certainly shed a bright light on this invaluable community asset.. just as the party Rock Fire reminded us how valuable and important are these beautiful mountains in which we are blessed to live.

Although our lake’s been around for nearly 100 years, we can always learn new lessons from events like Alberto that can help us do a better job in the future protecting, maintaining and enhancing the lake for our use and enjoyment and for future generations. So now in the aftermath of Alberto we have a great opportunity to learn for this experience and glean some ideas for the future. We’re doing just that!

Here are some things we’re taking a look at (… and in some cases “another” look at):

  1. Installing a permanently-anchored, deployable “debris catchment boom” along the river channel inlet before flows enter the lake body. This boom would be deployed across the inlet before a major rainfall event to catch debris coming down the Rocky Broad River before it reaches the lake and disburses into the lake. This would allow more efficient, cost-effective and faster removal of the debris which will hopefully avoid or at least minimize lake closures after major storms.
  2. Creating an enhanced public communication program during “emergencies” that provides more and better information to citizens before, during and after a major storm or other event occurs that threatens the safety of our citizens and visitors and disrupts normal operations in and/or nearby our community.
  3. Organizing a managed “volunteer corps” of citizens who are willing to help before, during and after major (emergency) events to supplement our municipal (state and federal) response staff. Many of our citizens have valuable knowledge, experience and talents that can be safely, effectively utilized to cope with such events within a controlled, managed program.

Let’s all hope that the Gorge has had enough “excitement” for a long while so we can enjoy our summer and autumn seasons in this beautiful place we get to call “home”.