According to the results released last week of an independent breach analysis by North Carolina Dam Safety, property damage from a failure of the hurricane-damaged Woodlake Dam, located on the Lower Little River in Vass, N.C., could be in excess of US$260 million.
This information was contained in an emergency declaration to conduct a temporary full breach of the dam due its current deficiencies by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the state’s Office of the Attorney General (AG).
Woodlake Dam impounds a 10,000 acre-feet reservoir and was rated as one of the state’s largest high-hazard dams in the wake of the October 2016 impact from Hurricane Matthew. A large portion of the dam’s spillway, responsible for controlled water release from the reservoir, was damaged during the hurricane and state inspectors have since determined the dam’s failure could cause at least 3 feet of downstream flooding.
The emergency order was signed last week by State Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan.
Regan, in his explanation of why the order was issued, said, “Because activities to breach the dam [by the owner] have ceased, the state needs to step in to eliminate the potential flooding risk to downstream communities. Our top priority is the safety and welfare of citizens. By taking control and breaching the dam, we will better protect residents downstream during hurricane season and other heavy rain events.”
Dam owner Woodlake CC Corp., according to NCDEQ, told the state agency it would not be able to complete corrective action pursuant to the “’Consent Judgement of Woodlake Dam, State of N.C. ex Rel. Regan v. Woodlake CC Corp. (17 CVS 0082),’ issued by Judge Webb on March 15, 2017.’”
NCDEQ said, “Although you initiated activities on the dam on May 13, 2017 to facilitate full breach of the structure, such activities have since ceased and based upon information we received from you and your engineer, you will not be able to complete the breach construction by the deadline specified in the Consent Judgment. This lack of continued progress is a significant concern to the Department as June 1, 2017 was the beginning of the annual Hurricane season and it is our opinion that the construction cannot be delayed any longer.”
Work to remediate the dam, initiated by Woodlake CC Corp., stopped after several contracted service providers discontinued their work because of non-payment of services.
On May 30, Engineer of Record service provider, Schnabel Engineering, sent a letter to Julie Watson, Woodlake CC Corp. vice president, saying it removed its personnel from the site on May 18 due to non-payment of services.
In January, HydroWorld.com reported Geosyntec Consultants of NC P.C., said it terminated its agreement with Woodlake CC Corp. for non-payment of about $270,000 in outstanding invoices and “Woodlake’s apparent inability to pay for the further services required to conform to the Dam Safety Order issued by NCDEQ on Nov. 17, 2016.”
Public records indicate Woodlake CC Corp. owes Vass County more than $162,000 in outstanding property taxes.
On May 24, Watson sent a letter to the N.C. AG that said Woodlake CC Corp. was awaiting word on a funds transfer to cover the invoices from Schnabel Engineering, Olde South Landscaping, and the escrow fund for Crowder Heavy Construction.
The Pilot reports Woodlake CC Corp. recently took out a $6.5 million line of credit through a deed of trust against the company’s holdings, which include the dam, reservoir and two golf courses in the Woodlake Resort and Country Club.
In her May 30 letter to the AG’s office, Watson said she submitted a Deed of Trust to Steiner Company/Multi Asset Anspar Plan 3 GmbH & Co. KG, in Hamburg, Germany, on April 25 to secure the loan.
“At this time, we are awaiting receipt of funding in escrow to finalize the contract with Crowder Heavy Construction,” Watson said. “A contract could be executed this week upon receipt of funding, but we are uncertain of the timeline for receiving funding.”
State dam safety officials in N.C. are finalizing contracts with a design firm and construction company and plan to start work at the dam immediately, according to NCDEQ. Under authority of the state Dam Safety Act, the department will take appropriate legal action to recover the costs of breaching the dam from Woodlake CC Corp.