Berkeley Lake faced with dam repairs

BERKELEY LAKE -- Mayor Lois Salter and Berkeley Lake City Council members have their work cut out for them, as they face long and expensive repairs to the city's beloved dam and lake.

The rains and flooding last fall brought structural problems with Lake Berkeley dam to light. According to city engineer Rich Edinger, the dam has a slope failure and water seepage has become a problem.

"The dam is only marginally stable," said Edinger, explaining that the city's dam is a high hazard dam that does not meet minimal safety criteria.

Berkeley Lake homeowners are upset that the repairs must be done. The lake level had to be dropped two years ago for repairs, and extensive repairs to the dam were performed in the 1980s. The teams of engineers currently involved with devising a solution for the dam have recommended removing the renovation done in the 1980s and installing an internal drain system. The lake will have to be drained, possibly leaving a small pool of water for fish.

Since Gwinnett County was declared a disaster area last fall following record flooding, FEMA will cover 75 percent of the $4 million price tag for the repairs, leaving about $1 million for the city to cover.

According to Edinger, the repair project could not even begin until the spring of 2011, since the permitting process will take six to eight months. Once the work begins, Edinger estimates that construction should take about nine months. It would then take about six months, depending on rainfall amounts, for the lake to fill again.