CUMMING — Heavy rain was a key factor in the Lake Alice dam collapse and resulting damage to Sanders Road and Little Ridge Cove. And now it’s rain that is delaying cleanup efforts in the area.
In May 2013, the earthen dam that held back the former private lake breached, sending torrents of water and sediment across the road and into the nearby cove of Lake Lanier.
In November, work began to remove sediment from the cove and to repair the road, with both projects expected to be completed by January.
However, Scott Morgan, director of planning and zoning for the city of Cumming, said rain and flooding earlier this year have slowed down progress.
"Both contractors have been working here the past couple of weeks since the lake level has come down,” Morgan said. “They had to wait several weeks — and maybe more than a month — for the water to come down, the corps releasing the water, bringing that lake level [down].”
In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to draw down Lanier toward its winter full pool of 1,070 feet above sea level. It had reached as high as 1,075.38 feet in later December due to heavy rain and flood control measures. Many parks and boat ramps were flooded and closed as a result.
“We’re moving in the right direction, we’re getting closer,” Morgan said. “[The contractors] just have been hampered by the weather and the high lake level.
“Hopefully, now that we have the lake level down to a more manageable number — and if we can just get out of this rainy pattern and get some good, solid, clear, dry weather — I think they can move even further ahead and maybe give us some dates for completion.”
Officials have said the portion of Sanders between Buford Dam and Mary Alice Park roads caved in as a result of excess water moving underneath it through an undersized culvert after the earthen dam breached.
That stretch, a popular cut-through that passes through a heavily wooded residential area and along Lanier, has been closed since spring 2013.
Due to the weather, Morgan said the city has given extensions to both projects until the end of March, though the addition of culvert, which will allow water to flow under Sanders and is necessary to rebuild the road, could occur sooner.
“I think they’re actually, once this weather gets by right here, this week, to actually begin installation of the double box culvert,” Morgan said. “So perhaps later this week or at latest the first part of next week, they should actually begin the culvert installation itself.
“Once the culvert has been installed, then, of course, they have to back-fill it and actually rebuild the road.”
The city and Forsyth County government are splitting the $434,000 cost to reopen the road.
The initial plan called for using an aquatic excavator to remove silt. But after finding that the silt had drifted to deeper areas of the cove, the city decided to bring in a barge to remove that sediment.
“They’re continuing to gather the sediment from the cove, drawing it together,” Morgan said. “I have not received a date from them yet for when they will begin actually removing the sediment, de-watering it and transporting it off site.”