Town Funds Creation of an Operations & Maintenance Plan for the Power Generation Facilities at the Lake Lure Dam

In keeping with its commitment to move forward with much needed attention toward the safety and optimum operation of the Lake Lure Hydroelectric Dam, Town Council has approved a contract with Clifton Power Company to complete a comprehensive operations, maintenance, and inspection plan for the hydroelectric facilities.

The work will be limited to only the power generation facilities. The Operations and Maintenance portion of the dam itself will be prepared by others.

The OMI plan by Clifton Power Co., once completed, will be a five to eight chapter document to be used by the Town's Hydroelectric Facilities Operator to perform three main elements of proper care and operations of the dam. 

It is not intended to contain every daily, weekly, or monthly activity of the Hydroelectric Facilities Operator. Rather, it is intended to serve as a guidance plan for the operator to follow during routine daily activities.  

Activities of the Hydroelectric Facilities Operator during emergency events will be addressed in an individual chapter of the OMI Plan. Total cost of the plan is not to exceed $4,600

Background: 

Following the completion of a comprehensive two-part study to evaluate the structural integrity, stability, and overall safety of the Town's hydroelectric dam, Town leaders are actively moving forward with hiring an engineering firm to lead the multi-phase, multi-year repairs.

In early April, the Town issued a Request for Qualifications from engineering firms from around the nation that can potentially manage the comprehensive engineering demands that the project will require.

Learn more about the specific RFQ for Engineering Services here

The creation of the RFQ followed the results of  a the dam study, completed by Dr. B. Dan Marks, a leading expert in the field of dam safety.

The two-part study, conducted over the winter of 2018, found multiple  issues that require immediate attention. As the repairs are made, however, Dr. Marks told Town leaders that the life of the historic dam can be extended by another fifty years.

In the study, Dr. Marks recommended four comprehensive phases to remedy the dam’s multiple issues. He anticipates that the cost of repairs will be between $4.5 and $5 million dollars and will take about five years to complete.

As a result of the comprehensive study - encompassing two large binders of documents, tests, analysis, historical data, reports, drawings and images, the Town was able to get a far more complete picture of the challenges, strategies and overall estimated cost for corrective action.

"The dam remediation process will follow three concurrent paths: funding, engineering and construction," said Town Manager Ron Nalley. All three are being actively pursued and developed at the same time.

While the repair needs are serious and they will be expensive, Dr. Marks indicated early on that solutions do exist and that repairs can take place over time. He has further said that the types of repairs that need to be made can likely be completed without drawing down the lake any lower than normal drawdown levels. 

Dr. Marks' study also revealed that not all components of the dam exhibit the same level or degree of degradation or deterioration.  For example, bedrock and groundwater conditions at some of the bays are worse than in other locations. 

These variances in performance were used to establish priorities in the overall Dam Remediation Construction Plan. Some construction activities going forward will be associated with dam operations as opposed to safety improvements.

 The study was initiated by the Town of Lake Lure last last year in order to evaluate the structural integrity, stability and overall safety of the aging dam.

  • Phase one involved a visual examination of the dam with extensive research on its history and construction design, as well as a theoretical analysis of safety and structural integrity.
  • Phase two focused on physical testing and measurements which resulted in a more defined safety and structural analysis based on the actual test results and measurements.

Throughout the process of learning more about the challenges associated with the aging dam, Town Council has continuously reaffirmed its commitment to finding a way to fund the repairs, keep citizens informed, and protect the recreational livelihood of the lake for residents and visitors alike.  

Even before the study was commissioned, the Town had begun to take several important steps in recent years to address aging infrastructure challenges. Since 2012, approximately $1.26 million has been directed toward the dam and hydroelectric related repairs, updates, and replacement of equipment.

Of the situation, Town leaders also point out that it is important to remember that the issues associated with the dam have occurred slowly over time. 

Routine maintenance activities at the Lake Lure Dam have taken place with regularity, but have focused primarily on the powerhouse equipment, intake gate and spillway gates. No significant structural repairs have been made.  

Completed in September 1926, the dam created the lake for which the community is named. Full impoundment of the lake was completed in 1927.