On the surface, Lake Lure and its surrounding views of the gorge, is truly one of the most uniquely beautiful bodies of water in the region. A small population of individuals make this small, fragile lake their year round home. For thousands of visitors, it's a regular vacation destination.
Our economy, our livelihood and our quality of life is inextricably tied to the lake on many levels.
Despite its diminutive size, it is universally loved and arguably known around the United States for its stellar beauty.
Even forced to do so, it's virtually impossible to imagine Lake Lure without the lake as we know it.
However, under the surface of these beautiful waters exist a formidable challenge that must be addressed if Lake Lure is to remain an enjoyable and easily accessible body of water.
This challenge has been there for the lion's share of the lake's 80+ year history.
It is silt, also known as sediment, and in some areas of the lake it is more than five feet deep.
As wind and water has removed particles of rock and soil from the once towering mountains in the Gorge, those same forces have deposited those particles in the valleys of the Broad River Basin. Sedimentation is the result of those erosive forces and is a natural and necessary process.
In short, it is a naturally occurring process, but one that if not tackled by ongoing dredging activities, will only worsen.
A Problem with many Sources
Due to geography, significant weather events over several decades and many man made events, such as timber cutting, the lake has dramatically changed over the course of its history. All of these activities contribute to erosion, landslides and sedimentation.
Our lake sits at the bottom of a 94-square mile watershed which covers parts of Buncombe, Henderson and Rutherford Counties and a very small portion of McDowell County.
There are a total of 48 water courses that empty directly into Lake Lure, including the Broad River. Each of these is continually depositing silt (fines), sediment (sand), gravel and even occasionally boulders into the lake. Erosion is continually occurring along the shoreline of the lake due to wave and wind action.
Considering that a singular storm event cost over a million dollars just to remove 250,000 cubic yards of sediment, one quickly realizes that "Gem of the Carolinas" could very quickly become a giant mud puddle if proactive measures are not implemented.
The issue of sedimentation and silt management was referred to prominently in the 2007-2027 Comprehensive Plan. And it was heavily studied and discussed by the town appointed Lake Advisory Board during the 2014-2015 budget negotiations.
A New Strategy
Following those discussions, the Lake Advisory Board requested that council increase the amount of the annual investment for dredging to a level that will allow the issue to be more substantially addressed on a long-term basis.
The challenge has always been making it enough of a priority to get sufficient funding to stay ahead of the issue. For the past five years, in and out of the recession, the most that has been able to be set aside is about $100,000 per year.
That has been split between $50,000 in actual dredging and $50,000 to build up an emergency dredging fund. However, in those years where the lake has not been lowered, not as much dredging is able to be done for $50,000. (The current schedule for lowering the lake is every three years). As a result, there have been years where the Lake Advisory Board has opted to save the additional $50,000 and wait for the next draw down cycle to get as much done as possible with the funds available.
The amount approved by council, and included in the current budget, is now $400,000. This is a long term approach on the part of the current Town Council. Everyone realizes that future councils can take a different approach. In the future the town will have to identify a sustainable funding strategy for dredging, either by finding additional revenue, taxes, fees, growth in property values or by eliminating some town services and associated costs in the budget.
It's very clear that it is a priority and that it must be included in future budgets at an amount that allows for significant headway to be made.Where the future funding will come from is something current and future councils will have to seriously address.
The current strategy, identified by the Lake Advisory Board and approved by this council specifically calls for entering into a ten-year agreement with a vendor that will commit to removing a set amount of sediment material every year for ten years.