Dam Updates - May 2019

Lake Lure Dam - "Engineering Marvel"

By: Lake Lure Town Council

The Town of Lake Lure has been working with the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Dam Safety Office (DSO) to ensure the dam meets safety requirements.   One of the top priorities of the Lake Lure Town Council has been to ensure the safety of the dam, while simultaneously protecting the lives and property of our citizens.   We want to ensure that the Town’s greatest asset, (the lake) thrives for future generations.  

The Lake Lure dam has performed very well during its lifetime and has been evaluated as an “engineering marvel” by engineers.  The dam is designated as a “High Hazard Dam” based on its size, not its condition.  The dam is evaluated to be in “fair condition” based on its age and based on all that we have learned from an exhaustive expert analysis, we are confident the dam will continue to serve us well as we continue to make the recommended repairs.  Our total transparency, coupled with the fact that we commissioned two separate dam studies, clearly illustrates this point.

The following overview is a summary of the dam’s history, present day realities, findings of the exhaustive analysis that has been conducted, and the next steps we are taking to ensure the dam meets current day standards.

 The dam has performed very well during its lifetime and is even evaluated as an “engineering marvel” by
 Engineers.  The following information will provide an overview of the dam’s history based on all that we have learned from this exhaustive expert analysis.  We are confident the dam will continue to serve us well as we make priority repairs outlined in this document.   We welcome you to stay tuned to our progress by attending our monthly Town Council Meetings where these important matters are discussed in detail.   

Historical Background:  

•    Creating a resort community in Western North Carolina was the vision of Dr. Lucius B. Morse in the early 1900’s.  Soliciting the financial backing of his brothers, Hiram and Asahel, Dr. Morse proceeded to purchase Chimney Rock (400 acres) from Jerome Freeman in 1902 for $5,000.  Subsequently acquiring enough acreage (in what is now the Lake Lure area) to bring the total to 8,000, including the valley in which Lake Lure lies and the hills and mountains above.
•    The Morse brothers formed Chimney Rock Company in 1916. The Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. was formed in 1922 with local industry and healthcare leaders from Rutherford County.  Leaders from this company commissioned a landscape architect named E.S. Draper, to further develop the vision.
•    Construction of the dam began in 1925, under the guidance of Mees & Mees, an Engineering firm from Charlotte, North Carolina. The dam was completed in September 1926 and the lake began rising. The full impoundment of Lake Lure occurred in 1927. At normal water levels, Lake Lure covers approximately 800 acres and has a shoreline of approximately 27 miles.   
•    The power plant began operations in 1928 with the sale of electricity under a 10-year contract with Blue Ridge Power Co., the predecessor of Duke Power Company.  The Town of Lake Lure continues even today to contract with Duke Energy for the sale of electricity.

Present Day Realities: