By Carol Pritchett
Mayor, Town of Lake Lure
It has been a glorious summer in Lake Lure. We all enjoyed the lovely firework celebration on the 4th of July. It was truly a celebration after a very challenging year and we appreciate the Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge coordinating this year’s event! I hope you have all enjoyed some time with family and friends. Unfortunately, as we prepare for the fall, it seems we will have to continue to use precautions to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant. I encourage anyone who is not already vaccinated to consider taking the vaccine to protect yourself and our neighbors. We are fortunate to have the vaccine available locally at no cost.
We have received positive feedback regarding the recent Round Table meetings that we held in Town Hall and at Rumbling Bald on Lake Lure. The purpose of the meetings was to give community members opportunities to ask questions, share ideas, and get information about the Town of Lake Lure and upcoming projects. I would like to thank Commissioner Dave DiOrio for providing technical guidance during these forums. We want to continue holding these opportunities and the next Round Table meetings will take place in the fall. Please stay tuned for these dates and plan to attend to discuss the latest updates on our infrastructure projects and anything else that is important to you. In the meantime, this is a synopsis of the major projects that are underway.
We are continuing to seek funding to support the dam replacement project. We are seeking national and state support to cover the cost of the replacement dam, but the town is also reserving funds to support this project. We are working with a national dam engineering firm, Schnabel Engineering. They have completed a full assessment which showed the dam is in fair condition, however, it does not meet current day dam safety standards. Schnabel Engineering is in the process of designing a reservoir drain (also known as a sewer access valve) which is an emergency preparedness requirement that will allow the lake to be lowered to 20 feet, if needed. Our next step with this project is to fund a conceptual design of the replacement dam. We remain committed to maintaining our lake as a recreational lake. We are seeking grants and appropriations funding to support this effort. Town Council passed the FY2021-2022 budget. This process allowed us to carefully look at all town expenses and to identify efficiencies that could be gained. Additionally, the new budget ensures the town reserves $1.6 million each year to fund the design and construction costs associated with the replacement dam.
We have received two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants totaling $200,000 to fund an assessment of the dam and the design of a reservoir drain (sewer access valve). We have applied for two additional FEMA grants to support the conceptual design of the replacement dam and will continue to apply for future grants to support this work. Additionally, we have submitted an appropriation request to the National Transportation and Infrastructure Committeeto seek support at the Federal and State level. These grants and applications all require matching funds so the town’s new Dam Reserve Fund will allow us to immediately accept any outside funds to support the project.
We are simultaneously working to restore our sewer system. It was designed in 1926 and is doing exactly what it was designed to do but requires updating. We have been working hand-in-hand with the NC Department of Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Water and Labella Associates, a leading engineering firm specializing in sewer system design. This project will have several phases and the first phase will start at the dam and will go two directions. On the western side it will connect to the Lake House Grill. On the eastern side it will go as far as Sunset Cove. We have secured funding for the first phase which includes a $12,000,000 low interest loan. We estimate that completing all the phases of this project will take 10-12 years.
An additional ongoing project we are focused on is dredging. The surrounding tributaries bring sediment into our lake and we need to dredge on a regular basis to maintain our lake. We have a grant through DEQ to support this effort each year. In 2021, the grant we received is for $637,000 and the total dredging budget is $850,000. We will be applying for dredging grants next year to support this effort.
We will be lowering the lake this year to facilitate these projects. We communicated the lake drawdown schedule as early in the year as possible so everyone can make their plans accordingly.
As a reminder, the plan is to begin lowering the lake on 11/1/21. The lake will be lowered about one foot per day until we reach twelve feet below full pond to accomplish the work that needs to be done.
We will work as strategically and efficiently as possible so that we can accomplish as much as we can while the lake is lowered. To provide operational flexibility and preserve the option to refill Lake Lure at the earliest opportunity after the winter drawdown, all work on projects below the normal full pond level of the lake must be completed or work ceased by 1/31/22. We hope to begin refilling the lake, no later than 3/31/22 and the following projects will be completed during this time:
- Construction to allow deep water access ramp
- Rehabilitating all 65 manholes to reduce lake water infiltration
- Conducting a pre-bid meeting for those contactors interested in bidding the Phase I project
- Constructing modifications to some of the boat houses affected by the Phase I project
- Conducting lake structure inspections for compliance with the town’s ordinances
- Installing two manholes in Morse Park to enable access to and inspection of the existing system
- Completing a hydroelectric plant penstock warranty inspection
It is uncertain if the lake will have to be lowered each year, but it is likely given the projects that are underway. This scope and drawdown duration determination will be made each year and announced as soon as possible.
With all that is going on in Lake Lure, we want to be sure you have the latest information at your fingertips. One way we are doing this is through our new website which launched in June 2021. The new website has a responsive design, meaning that it will automatically convert to your phone, tablet, or iPad, making it easy to find the content that you need. There is a Mega Menu and you may hover over any of these key headers to see additional information and links of interest. There are quick links at the bottom of the homepage, above links to Town News and Upcoming Meetings/Events. There is a search bar which will allow the public to readily find resources. In addition to these features, the new website includes the following resources:
- Upgraded Council/Board Meeting Agenda, Packet & Minutes System (Documents are readily accessible vs. having to search through folders and subfolders)
- Online Work Orders (The public may submit work orders online and will receive updates via email.)
- Online Facility Rentals (Facility Rentals may be made online with an automatic reply and email updates.)
- Online Payment for Utility Bills
- Upgraded Online Parks and Trails Package (This new package offers many new features and additional information on Parks and Trails.)
I would like to recognize and thank Communications Specialist Laura Krejci for her leadership in the development of our new website and the website transition.
And thank you for staying informed with all that is taking place in Lake Lure. We appreciate your support
and your input. I look forward to seeing you all around town this fall and at our next Round Table Meeting.
Special thanks to Linda Ward for 26+ years of excellent Customer Service starting her career at the Lake Lure Golf Course, then through her work at Town Hall with Utility Billing, Commercial Licensing, Boat Permitting, Purchasing, and so much more at the Town of Lake Lure. Enjoy every moment of your well-deserved retirement! You will be greatly missed!