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City, family begin plotting cleanup

Response to dam collapse taking shape

POSTED: June 4, 2013 5:19 p.m.
 

For the first time since the Lake Alice dam broke May 19, state officials and all parties involved met Monday for what appears to have been a productive step toward repairing the damage.

“Everyone understands that this is something that needs to be done as quickly as possible,” said Bert Langley, district coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division.

“It needs to be done in a hurry, carefully. You don’t want to rush ... and make the problem worse.”

The dam breach sent water and tons of mud from Lake Alice across Sanders Road and into a Lake Lanier cove, whose shoreline is heavily wooded and dotted by about 50 homes.

Langley said the EPD is currently drafting a consent order for the city of Cumming, which owns a large portion of Lake Alice, and members of the Mashburn family, which own the 78-year-old earthen dam.

In addition to those parties, as well as their legal counsel, Langley attended the meeting, as did representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees Lake Lanier.

The Mashburns’ attorney, Michael Carvalho, said after the meeting that the family, which includes six people, is committed to fixing the problem.

“We are in the process of developing a response plan and we will be working with some of the best environmental engineers and scientists in the state,” he said. “The goal is not to let it get any worse, and so we will be working toward that end.”

The dam sits between Market Place Boulevard Extension, across from Cumming Town Center, and Sanders Road. The retail area on Cumming’s east side was developed around 2006-07.

Officials with the state’s Safe Dams Program have previously noted that the dam passed its most recent inspection, which was several years ago.

Nearly 7 inches of rain fell the night of May 19, when the dam gave way. With the threat of more precipitation, the EPD’s order will ask for a short-term fix as well as a long-term solution to prevent more dirt from flowing into Lanier.

One of the more likely immediate strategies to hold off silt would be to install a turbidity curtain in the lake — something that wouldn’t require a permit from the corps.

From there, Carvalho said, his clients have “got to develop a plan to go in and measure the sediment and remove it. We’ll be working with the city of Cumming to accomplish that.”

Much like the Mashburn family, the city will huddle with engineers “and develop a plan for how the issue is going to be addressed,” said Cumming Planning & Zoning Department Director Scott Morgan.

“The city will address our portion of the lake that we own,” Morgan said. “The Mashburns are going to be responsible for their portion, which goes from not only part of the lake, but the area where the dam was to Sanders Road.”

Morgan said the city’s plan is to work with its engineers while the Mashburns work with theirs, while both sides stay in touch.

“The Mashburn family trust is committed to do what needs to be done to get this addressed, and that includes working with the city of Cumming,” Carvalho said.

 

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