Berkeley Lake and FEMA still in talks

BERKELEY LAKE -- Mayor Lois Salter, City Engineer Rich Edinger, Safe Dams representatives and other city officials are in talks with FEMA again, in an effort to convince the federal agency to pitch in more money for Lake Berkeley dam repairs.

Earlier this year, FEMA had agreed to pay about $1.3 million toward the repair bill of about $4 million.

The small Gwinnett city, with a population of about 2,000, is "desperate" to make its case to FEMA that the damage to the dam was caused by the record flooding Georgia suffered last fall, according to Salter. The mayor's pleas and staunch position that the necessary repairs are a direct result of last year's deluge have apparently opened the door to further discussion with both FEMA and GEMA.

"I'm very grateful that FEMA is doing this," said Salter, who how difficult it is to get a second opportunity. Even if the federal agency ultimately agrees with the city's position, FEMA will only cover 75 percent of the repair costs.

Basically, FEMA has asked the city to prove that the dam was in perfect working order before the floods of last year weakened the dirt and gravel structure. Georgia Safe Dams, the agency responsible for inspecting dams statewide, has supported the city's position. Representatives from Safe Dams perform annual inspections of the Lake Berkeley dam, but FEMA still wants data to prove the dam was fine before last fall.

The problem, as Edinger stated, is that "when there are no symptoms, you tend not to go to the doctor." He and his team are working diligently to pull together as much data as possible to prove the structure was in perfect working order before the storm event. Salter is confident that the city's position will be supported by the data.

Documents for the repairs should be complete some time in October.