By Carol Pritchett
Mayor, Town of Lake Lure
As winter comes to a close and we begin to see signs of spring emerging, it inspires hope. We can apply this analogy to the pandemic we are experiencing. It has been challenging as we have missed seeing family and friends as much as we would have liked to during the past year. The physical, economic and social impact of COVID-19 has been significant, but we now have hope with the dissemination of vaccines. We are fortunate that the Foothills Health District has been able to provide vaccines throughout our county. Additionally, the Blue Ridge Health Clinic in Lake Lure and Spindale has also provided vaccines to their patients and to those in our community. We are grateful for the efforts of these invaluable health care teams. We are told that both the Foothills District and the Blue Ridge Clinic in Lake Lure and in Spindale will continue to provide free vaccines as they are disseminated more broadly to NC. We are also hopeful that local pharmacies will be given doses of the vaccine in the coming months to expand the age groups that are offered the vaccines.
I encourage each of you to take advantage of the opportunity to get the vaccine if it is offered to you. These critical vaccinations will help protect our community while we continue to practice sound public health measures in this next phase of the pandemic. COVID-19 will be an ongoing public health issue we will be addressing for the foreseeable future. We appreciate the many citizens who have faithfully worn masks and practiced social distancing to protect yourselves and your neighbors throughout this ordeal. We must remain vigilant in these efforts for the health and safety of our community.
Your Lake Lure Town Council and staff have also been working diligently to prepare for the next season. We were very strategic during the recent lake drawdown to accomplish as many projects as possible. These projects have laid a solid foundation for the work ahead in the coming season.
First, we completed the penstock inspection which can only be done with the lake down 12 feet. Our Town engineer, Kurt Wright led the inspection and I am very pleased to report that our penstock is structurally sound. This is outstanding news following the investment we made with the quake wrap installation last year. We also took advantage of this opportunity with the lake down to inspect and clean the wicket gates and the hydroelectric plant. The wicket gates help control the flow of water as it reaches the generators. With both generators now operational, the Town is able to produce and sell more power to Duke Energy. These funds help offset the costs of managing the department.
The regulators from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) came to inspect the penstock and the hydroelectric plant. The team was very impressed with the progress that has been made by the Town’s Dam and Hydroelectric Plant Director Dean Lindsey. Their visit provided a good opportunity to collaborate on our plans to enhance the dam moving forward. We will be making decisions on this very soon and will keep you posted as we confirm our next steps.
As everyone knows after seeing the increased silt when the lake was down, dredging is an ongoing priority for the Town. Our dredging team was able to complete some focused excavation on the silt bed near Morse Park when the lake was lowered. We have been increasing the dredging budget for the past three years, but I am thrilled to report that we just received a $637,500 grant from DEQ to help support dredging in 2021. This grant requires a 25% match so the Town will be investing a total of $850,000 on dredging in 2021. We are grateful to Parks, Recreation, and Lake Director Dean Givens and Parks, Recreation, and Trails Coordinator Dana Bradley for their excellent work applying for this much needed grant. We plan to apply for this grant next year to continue this effort as this is an ongoing need. The graph below illustrates the increased emphasis the Town has made on dredging over the last ten years, with the support of the DEQ dredging grants.
We had a third primary focus during the lake drawdown on the next stages of
the sewer system renovation. This is another critical project we have been preparing for over the
past year. We took high definition drone footage of the lake backshore while the water was down
so the engineers would have this detailed footage as a reference as the project continues. During
the drawdown, both DEQ and potential contractors that may bid on the work for the sewer system
renovation project visited Lake Lure. Teams led by Town Manager Shannon Baldwin, Public Works Director David Arrowood, Town Engineer Kurt Wright, and Parks, Recreation, and Lake Director Dean Givens came and surveyed the lake and the backshore area in preparation for Phase one of this important project.
In preparation for the next phases of work, our Town department heads, engineers, and contractors
worked together strategically and efficiently to accomplish as much as possible during the lake
drawdown. As planned, the lake will be back at full pond by the time this article is published, well
before the spring season is in full bloom. We are planning another community forum in the spring
to keep citizens informed and involved with the work ahead as we continue to bolster Lake Lure for