Economic hits mount with permit delays for dredging Lake Peachtree

County officials last week announced another potential delay in refilling Lake Peachtree.

The proposed dry dredging of the lake bed will require state and/or federal permits, unlike previously thought, according to County Manager Steve Rapson. This stands to delay the dredging process by at least several months.

The lake has been drained almost completely since February when it was lowered to allow dock and shoreline maintenance … but in the interim problems were discovered with a cavern that was created underneath the lake’s spillway, threatening its structural integrity.

As a result, the county has not refilled the lake while engineers from the city and the county work on solutions to the problem and are simultaneously awaiting a key ruling from state regulators on the lake’s classification, which will dictate the extent of the repairs to a large degree.

Lake Peachtree is owned by the city but maintained by the county, which uses it as a drinking water reservoir.

In the meantime, one of the city’s signature athletic events has had to cancel its August plans due to the unavailability of Lake Peachtree. While the Tri-PTC Sprint Triathlon could have used Lake McIntosh for its swimming event, doing so requires the biking route to cross the railroad tracks in the city’s industrial park.

During a mid-May triathlon, hundreds of bikers got blocked by trains passing through, according to race director Kim Bramblett. Because of a worry that participants might try to race the train across the tracks at the last second, the decision was made to cancel the 14th edition of the race, she added.

“We loved having the event over at Lake McIntosh,” Bramblett said. “… More than anything, it’s the safety of our athletes we’re trying to protect. We had to do our due diligence and be careful. But Lake McIntosh is just beautiful.”

The plan is for Tri-PTC to come back “bigger and better” next year, Bramblett said, adding that Mayor Vanessa Fleisch went the extra mile to try and help avoid canceling the race.

“I would say the mayor bent over backwards to try and help us in every way possible to make this happen, but there’s nothing she can do about the train schedule. I realize it’s out of her hands,” Bramblett said.

Fleisch said she was pleased the May event could be held at Lake McIntosh, adding that county officials were happy with the condition in which the triathletes left the lake and park area following the race. But the logistical issues were too much to overcome, Fleisch added.

Fleisch said there are hopes the International Dragon Boat Festival hosted by the city and the Peachtree City Rotary Club can be moved to Lake McIntosh.

The news of the permit requirement for the dredging was helpful to hear from County Administrator Steve Rapson, Fleisch said, adding that the timeline is still unclear for getting the lake’s spillway fixed so the lake can be refilled back to its normal level.

“It’s still difficult to determine because there are quite a few things out of our control at this point,” Fleisch said.

There is some good news surrounding Lake Peachtree, as the cart path bridge spanning the lake parallel to Ga. Highway 54 is nearly complete, Fleisch said.

Also, the lake’s low level will not result in the canceling of the city’s annual July 4 fireworks display, city officials have said previously.

“I just am looking forward to hopefully getting more information from the county as they progress and the permits come and we can get people seeing the movement,” Fleisch said. “I think that’s the next important step.”

Because of the contractual implications of the pending work on the lake, the city has hired an outside attorney to represent it in discussions with the county. The county is responsible for maintaining the lake’s dam and spillway per an agreement from the 1960s that was amended two decades later.

Councilman Eric Imker recently called for the county to begin designing the spillway repairs to coincide with the worst-case scenario, which is if the state determines Lake Peachtree could endanger lives downstream if the dam and/or spillway were to fail. The catch is that such a design would almost certainly be more expensive than what is necessary if the state declines to make such a ruling.

A decision from the state’s Safe Dams program is expected by the end of this month.

And the city announced Tuesday that repairs on the cart path bridge adjacent to Ga. Highway 54 crossing Flat Creek are completed and the bridge is now reopened for cart and pedestrian traffic.