State decision stands to increase cost to county
Peachtree City officials plan to appeal a decision from state regulators that would require a more costly repair to the dam and spillway holding back Lake Peachtree.
The city, which owns the lake, is working in conjunction with Fayette County, which leases the use of the lake as a water reservoir. The county has agreed with the city that the best option for now is to pursue the appeal.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has reclassified the lake as a “Category I” body of water, meaning that if the dam were to be breached, lives would be lost downstream due to excessive flooding.
The Category I designation almost assuredly means higher costs to bring the dam and spillway facility into compliance with state regulations.
The appeal also further extends the timeline for getting the lake refilled, but city and county officials have stressed that “there are no plans for alternative uses of the lake bed site.”
The county commission is expected Thursday to consider a memorandum of understanding with the city in regards to proceeding with addressing the lake repairs. Under a contract dating to the 1960s, the county is responsible for maintaining the dam and spillway because the county’s water system uses the lake as a reservoir.
The lake has remained drained since February when it was lowered for what was expected to take two months, giving property owners time to conduct dock and shoreline maintenance. During that period, officials discovered a significant problem with the spillway: an underground cavern has been forged, likely by erosion.
That cavern calls into question whether the spillway is structurally sound to the point where it can carry its load if the lake were to be refilled.
The lake’s ramshackle appearance, with a significant amount of grass growing on the mostly dry yet mucky lakebed, has been the subject of much consternation among city residents all summer. After all, the lake is a signature feature of the city and is seen by all who drive by City Hall on Ga. Highway 54.
In the meantime, county officials have consultants working on dam breach modeling to determine the potential impact of a breach of the spillway. Also being studied is the potential for any temporary modifications to the spillway that would allow the lake to be refilled.
Also under consideration is the use of an alternative rehabilitation for the spillway that may meet state criteria to allow temporary refilling of the lake. Such options could include “more intrusive and extensive repairs” to the emergency spillway, building a temporary spillway upstream, and installing other methods such as siphons to control the water level.
The county is hoping to have an action plan ready by the end of this month, but whatever procedure is ultimately chosen will also need approval of state regulators, further extending the timeline.
The city and county are working together on the project, as both governments want to see the lake restored, officials said. The county is providing copies of all proposals, contracts and reports from its consultants Golder and CH2M Hill so they can be reviewed and approved by the city.
In the meantime the city presented its annual July 4 fireworks display over the dry lake, and other events will be moved to Lake McIntosh later this year including the annual Dragon Boat races and a triathlon event.
Because the lake repairs will be an extended process, the county has presented a plan to dredge the lake in a process that would be complete around January 2015. This dry dredging process needs approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but would remove silt and mud from the lake bottom that has accumulated due to upstream erosion.
The county and city expect the repairs will take longer than the dredging process, so the lake bed will again see grass growing following the dredging, officials have cautioned. That grass will die out once the lake is refilled and it will not impact water quality, officials said in the news release.
Curiosity has gotten the best of some residents, several of whom have tried to go “mudding” in the lake bed, only to have their truck/golf cart/you-name-it mired in the thick muck. Police have handed out citations for violating a city ordinance against improper use of the lake, and stuck vehicles have also had a hit on the driver’s wallet, as specialized equipment must be called in to rescue their vehicles from the lake bed.