CUMMING — It appears work has begun to repair the damage caused by the collapse of an earthen dam more than two years ago.
Scott Morgan, Cumming’s director of planning and zoning, said the city hired a firm to help stabilize the stream and bed of the former Lake Alice and those efforts passed the muster of the state Environmental Protection Division.
“The EPD conducted a site visit,” Morgan said. “They were very pleased with the stabilization and revegetation of the Little Ridge Creek and the former Lake Alice lake bed and the area in the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] flood control easement down to Sanders Road.”
The city has also issued a request for proposal, the first step in the biding process, to dredge a nearby cove on Lake Lanier that was heavily impacted by sediment after the dam collapsed during heavy rain on May 19, 2013, as well as for stream remediation of the area. Neither bid has been awarded.
Though work is moving forward, several related issues remain unresolved. One is with the Mashburn Family Trust, which owned the dam that washed out.
The city, which owned part of the water in the lake, and the family trust had been in agreement on the best course of action to be taken on cleanup efforts, until the city issued a stop-work order in 2014.
That year, the two parties violated a consent order when they could not agree on a plan.
The Mashburn Family sought to install a weir, a step-like structure that allows water to flow over the top, but holds some back. The city wanted to reestablish the stream bed that had existed before the dam was built about 80 years ago.
“The consent order that was issued to the Mashburn Family Trust and the city jointly is being addressed by both parties,” said Michael Carvalho, attorney for the trust.
“The Mashburn Family Trust has completed the stabilization required and that we’ve agreed to, and the city has agreed to undertake a remediation of both the cove and the stream channel leading into the cove, and it’s up to the city to complete those tasks.”
On April 9, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division filed a request for entry of judgement against the city and family trust concerning the breech and its aftermath. The filing will require a judge to decide between the city’s plan for remediation and one proposed by the Mashburns.
According to Carvalho, the matter could be heard early next year, unless the sides come to an agreement.
“We’ll continue to try to work cooperatively with the city and all parties to get this matter resolved and we are optimistic that the city will do what is required of them under the consent order and that will happen sooner rather than later,” he said.
“The people of the city of Cumming deserve to have the situation rectified, unfortunately there’s only so much that we can do on our end.”
Officials with the EPD could not be reached for comment last week.
Another unresolved issue involves Sanders Road, a popular residential cut-through east of Cumming.
A part of the road was washed out after the dam collapse and Sanders has been closed between Buford Dam and Mary Alice Park roads since June 2013.
Repairs have been estimated at $173,000, but Cumming and Forsyth County’s governments have not been able to agree on how best to share the responsibility.
After some back-and-forth talks, officials with each agreed to pay half. However, problems arose when they also wanted to be absolved of liability by the other party in the dam collapse.
While it is a Forsyth County road, the city had previously annexed a portion affected by the dam breech.
Morgan said the city would be fixing its part when completing the work that is currently out for bid.
“You kind of have to do it all at the same time in terms of the upstream area, the road and then the cove,” he said. “We’re going to fix up the portion of the road, deal with that portion that collapsed in the dam breech, that is our 50 feet. And outside of that north and south, I guess it’s up to the county to decide what they are going to do with the remaining portion of their road.”
In a separate legal matter, the city, county and family trust have been sued by those affected by the collapse. The residents want the situation resolved, noting that silt continues to flow into the cover after every hard rain.