The Winter Drawdown of Lake Lure is in Effect

The Lake is down for the Winter:

From approximately Nov. 26 to around Feb. 15th, the lake will remain down between 3 to 5 feet below full pond. Barring any unforeseen weather-related events, the lake will  begin to be re-filled on Feb. 15th. 

By Clint Calhoun

Clint Calhoun is a naturalist and biologist and has worked in Hickory Nut Gorge for over 20 years.  He is currently the Environmental Management Officer for the Town of Lake Lure.  Follow Clint's blog

During the Winter of 2016-2017, the Town of Lake Lure was forced to deviate from its every three year cycle of lowering the lake to lower it approximately 11 feet. This was to make emergency repairs to a metal shaft that allows one of the dam's generators to operate. 

Because the dramatic lowering of the lake occurred outside of the normal lake lowering cycle, property and business wondered if the lake would again be lowered this winter, (2017-2018) as part of the normal cycle. 

The short answer is yes. The lake is down again this winter, although it will not go down at the same levels as in the winter of 2016-2017.

Why does the Town need to lower the lake at all?

  • Typically, the Town lowers the lake on a three-year cycle for one primary reason: To allow lakefront property owners the opportunity to repair and maintain lake structures, particularly seawalls. 
  • Most lake structure work can be done with the lake up and most contractors would rather build boathouses and docks that way. However, certain types of shoreline stabilization work, such as seawall installation and repairs, generally have to wait until the water is down in order to be in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. 
  • Because seawall repairs can be a costly project, many lakefront property owners use the time between lake draw downs to save money for their projects.  The Town’s regulations require that all lake structures, including seawalls, be maintained in a good state of repair.
  • Given the age of the lake and its various seawalls and lake structures, many were originally built without the benefit of any engineering. Time and the erosive forces of wind and water cause failures that must be repaired. Property owners only get the opportunity to make those repairs every three years.
  • Because the lake went down a year early in 2016-201, due to the failure of the dam's small generator, a number of lakefront property owners were not prepared to have their work done. Therefore, Town Council took note of the situation and agreed unanimously to maintain the draw down schedule by allowing the lake to go down again for the winter of 2017-2018.

What's the big deal and why must there be so much advance preparation?

Seawall maintenance and shoreline stabilization are the primary ways that the lake is protected from shoreline erosion.

While seawalls are no longer recognized as the best approach to shoreline management, there are a great number of them on Lake Lure and as a result, they must be maintained.  In order to meet environmental requirements, rip rap must be installed at the toe of these structures when significant repairs are made to protect them from undercutting and wave action.

During the three-year draw down cycle, the Town applies for what is known as a “blanket permit” for shoreline stabilization.  This permit is called a 401 certification and is issued through the North Carolina Division of Water Resources (NC DWR). 

To be in compliance with the Clean Water Act, a 401 Certification is required by anyone doing work within the waters of  North Carolina.
To alleviate the financial burden that property owners would have in applying for the certification individually, the Town allows property owners to include their stabilization projects under the Town's general permit application - the blanket permit -  which is issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers for work in reservoirs.

This service saves property owners the $240 fee that they would have to pay to the state if they were submitting their own individual applications. Property owners still have to absorb their own design and labor costs. 

To participate in the Town's blanket application to the state, property owners must provide a plan to the Town that details the work to be done on Lake Lure. If significant seawall repairs are being made, such as replacing large sections of wall, pouring new footers, or building a new seawall, engineered drawings are required.

For rip rap stabilization alone, property owners have to submit a drawing that details the type of work and where the work will take place along the shoreline.  Along with the drawings,  a Shoreline Stabilization Permit application needs to be submitted to the Town's Environmental Management Officer as well.

Once all permit applications have been received, the Town prepares all of the necessary documents and maps, as well as a project narrative to the state that details all of the projects. Following review of the Town's application, the blanket 401 Certification is issued. The Town pays the required fees, the amount of which is based on the total number of linear feet of shoreline to be impacted. 

Since the state requires 60 days to review the applications, the Town of Lake Lure must have everything submitted to the state no later than Sept. 1st. And because compiling the applications, completing the state-required forms, and writing the project narrative is an   extensive, time-consuming process, the Sept. 1st deadline is necessary.

This is especially so if a large number of property owners wish to participate. The deadlines are also put in place to allow time for corrections if the application is rejected or requires amendments.

What if I miss the Deadline? 

If property owners are not able to meet the Town's Sept. 1st deadline, they can still seek to obtain the go ahead by applying for the certification directly from the state on an individual basis. For an individual to submit their own application for a 401 Certification from NC DWR, they must submit a $240 fee, along with drawings/plans and photographs. 

No applications will be accepted for anything other than rip rap armoring after January 17th, 2018, as concrete must have 28 days of cure time before coming in contact with water.

For questions regarding shoreline stabilization and what is required, contact the Lake Operations Department.  The Environmental Management Officer can be reached at (828) 625-9983 ext. 502 or at eco@townoflakelure.com.