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Sanders Road talks at a standstill
Its unlikely to reopen anytime soon
2WEB culvert in cove
With the water flowing at a low level, a piece of the culvert that washed into the cove below Sanders Road is clearly visible. - photo by Jim Dean

CUMMING — Deemed unsafe following a dam breach and flooding, a popular residential cut-through east of Cumming remains closed to through traffic nearly 14 months later.

And based on a recent check with local officials, the governmental stalemate over repairs to Sanders Road is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

The stretch of Sanders between Buford Dam and Mary Alice Park roads was heavily damaged by the May 19, 2013, breach of nearby Lake Alice’s earthen dam during heavy rain.

The city of Cumming performed temporary repairs later that week to allow the road, which is primarily Forsyth County-owned, to reopen to traffic.

The county and city split the costs of the emergency fix at about $15,700 each.

The following month, continued rain compromised the temporary repair and caused the road, which also skirts Lake Lanier, to close again.

Repairs have been estimated at $173,000, but the city and county 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.

The two sides agreed to mediation on the matter in March. As of Friday, no resolution had been reached. 

In recent weeks, representatives of both the city and county have said that the matter is at a standstill.

“Right now, it’s pretty well in the hands of engineers and legal [council],” said Gerald Blackburn, Cumming’s city administrator. “But as soon as we get a little farther along, so we’ve got some firm information, we’ll be glad to pass that along.”

The city and Mashburn Family Trust, which owned the Mary Alice dam, are under a joint consent order issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Department to remediate Lake Alice and remove sediment from nearby Little Ridge Creek and Lake Lanier.

The remediation plan includes the construction of a weir, a barrier that forms an obstruction smaller than most dams, pooling water behind it while also allowing it to flow steadily over the top.

Once the sediment is stopped, the city will dredge and clean the sediment that’s collected in the cove over the past year.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he hopes the remediation efforts will eventually lead to more discussion about the road.

“There has been a pause in dialogue between the city and county regarding Sanders Road, though neither the city nor the county has declared impasse with respect to possible compromise,” he said.

“Presently, the county is monitoring the work being performed related to the Lake Alice dam breach and feels confident that future discussions with the city will occur regarding Sanders.”