Those involved in the response to the May 19 Lake Alice dam break are scheduled to gather today to begin sorting out responsibilities and chart the cleanup efforts of a nearby mud-filled Lake Lanier cove.
The meeting will include representatives from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, city of Cumming and the Mashburn family, which owns the 78-year-old earthen dam that broke after nearly 7 inches of rain fell.
The breach sent water and tons of mud from Lake Alice across Sanders Road and into the cove and its heavily wooded shoreline.
The EPD, city and corps met earlier in the week at the site to assess the situation, but today will be the first meeting involving the Mashburn family.
EPD District Coordinator Bert Langley said some of the six family members who own a stake in the property “have agreed to start getting a contractor involved with the site, get it stabilized and come up with a plan to remediate the problem.”
The city will also have representation at the meeting, according to Langley.
“Initially, they represented they own nothing,” he said. “But it turns out ... the city does own a significant portion of the lake bottom, which does, in our opinion, create liability for the city.
“The two parties will have to work out together who’s responsible for what.”
The dam sat between Market Place Boulevard Extension, across from Cumming Town Center, and Sanders Road. The retail area was developed around 2006-07.
Officials with the state’s Safe Dams Program have confirmed the dam passed its most recent inspection, which was several years ago.
They returned to the site after the collapse. According the program’s inspection report from that visit, as much as 3 feet of water may have flowed over Sanders into Lanier during the early morning hours of May 19.
The width of the flow was estimated at about 196 feet and the breach, which occurred in the center of the dam, included items such as uprooted trees, stacked stones, cinder blocks and two sections of PVC pipe.
While the dam itself accounts for most of the dirt that filled the cove, Langley said it’s the remaining dirt in what was once Lake Alice that could cause problems with the dam gone.
“Our concern now, too, is we’ve got all that mud laying out there,” he said. “We’re due for rain … so we may get more rain and more stuff washing off what used to be a lake bottom, now into the stream and into the lake.”
Officials have previously said the dam does not necessarily need to be rebuilt, but that steps must be taken to prevent further runoff.
The future of both lakes will be discussed at the meeting, which Langley described as informational and not for enforcement.
“We’re still in a ‘let’s get a problem solved’ mode and not an enforcement mode,” Langley said.
Inaction could result in fines of $50,000 per day, though Langley said he doesn’t expect the issue to reach that point, especially given the cooperation for the meeting.
However, he’s being cautiously optimistic.
“I don’t have a lot of expectations about what’s going to happen,” he said. “This is a new experience for both parties and so I suspect there will be a level of noncommittal until they have time to assess the situation.”