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Berkeley Lake to assess storm damage to dam

BERKELEY LAKE - The dam that contains 88-acre Lake Berkeley is showing signs of weakening, probably as a result of the 12.5 inches of rain that drenched the city for about a week back in September.

According to City Engineer Rich Edinger, a city worker discovered a slope failure about 2/3 of the way up the dam on Sept. 23.

While Edinger told Mayor Lois Salter and City Council members not to panic, he did suggest taking measures to assess and evaluate the damage. After contacting Safe Dams Program (a Georgia regulatory program) and Piedmont Geotechnical Consultants, Edinger made several recommendations to city leaders that should identify the cause of the failure.

Built in 1948 and renovated in 1980 and the early 1990s, Lake Berkeley Dam has been well maintained, according to Edinger. Continual maintenance and annual inspections have been performed for many years. Compromised areas on the dam have been marked, and experts have been monitoring the water depth in hand-augered holes that have been drilled into the dam.

What the team of geotechnical experts is trying to figure out is why the slope failure occurred in the first place. Last month's heavy rains may be the culprit, or the composition of the dam itself may be the problem. According to Edinger, experts are not sure whether the dam is clay or a combination of some other materials. Another question to be answered in whether the drains in the dam are working properly.

Edinger proposes performing soil borings to ascertain the dam's composition. Additional borings, some as deep as 100 feet, will determine the stability of the dam. This initial boring process should take about 8 weeks

"This could be a superficial problem or an issue with dam stability," said Edinger.

FEMA has also inspected the dam and has asked Edinger for more data. The city may be able to recoup some of its expenses (as much as $25,000 just for initial testing and evaluation) from FEMA.

Security company picked

Council members voted to approve the selection of Plaza Security to handle the city's public safety matters. Since Gwinnett County officers can no longer be hired to patrol and protect the city, leaders had to interview and evaluate private security firms to do the job.

City Hall Grand Opening

The official grand opening ceremony for the new Berkeley Lake city hall and park is scheduled for 3 - 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18.