County says OK to PTC’s lake agreement

Ga. Highway 54 bridge across Flat Creek/Lake Peachtree in a June photo.

Officials hoping to limit cost of work to refill Lake Peachtree; state decision could cost into millions

The Fayette County Commission voted Thursday to approve a pact with the Peachtree City Council to appeal what could be a very costly decision by state regulators regarding Lake Peachtree.

Yet instead of the county taking the engineering lead on the project, the city itself will be responsible for conducting a dam breach analysis to determine what would happen downstream if the dam or spillway were to fail.

That analysis is important because the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has determined that such flooding would cause at least one death downstream if not more. Because of that ruling, the city is facing a significant upgrade to the current dam and spillway structure.

If the dam breach analysis proves that flooding from a dam breach would not endanger homes downstream, it would be good ammunition to have for convincing the state that an upgraded dam and spillway are unnecessary.

The city council is expected to consider the county’s version of the lake agreement at its next meeting.

City officials have faced significant pressure from the public to get the city-owned lake back up to its normal level. The lake has been at a reduced pool since it was drained in February to allow dock and shoreline maintenance for what was supposed to be a couple of months.

During that time, problems were found with the concrete spillway and further investigation revealed a cavernous structure underneath, likely caused by erosion. That void sparked concern that if the lake were to be refilled, the spillway could fail, causing flooding downstream. Thus, the county has left the lake almost completely unfilled.

The lake, which for many years has provided a picturesque view, is now an eyesore as the city and county are working to avoid a costly upgrade that’s almost certain to run into the millions of dollars. Grass has grown on the exposed lake bed, and though county officials hoped to use the lull to dredge the lake bottom, that process has been delayed because of a need to secure permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The hope is that dredging can end by January 2015, officials said last week.

Further complicating matters is council’s action to hire an outside attorney in the matter, due in large part to a decades-old contract that makes the county responsible for maintenance of the dam and spillway, in exchange for the ability to draw water out of Lake Peachtree for use by the county water system.

Anyone worrying about the lake’s future demise can rest easy, however. In a news release late last week, officials confirmed there are no plans for the city or county to develop “an alternative use of the lake bed site.”

The county has been working on the spillway and dam issue via its consulting engineering firms CH2M Hill and Golder.