Young Andrew Boney, 5 years old, already had a list of things he was hoping to find at the bottom of Ledbetter Lake, after the water level was lowered several feet to allow workers to repair a leak in the dam.
Boney’s 9-year-old brother Jackson, his grandmother Sandra Ussery and his grandfather Ed Ussery brought him to Graham Bridge on Graham Bridge Road in Rockingham on Monday to take a look at the stuff turning up around the bridge. Ed’s brother Pete Ussery told him about the things he saw that morning, and advised him to bring the grand kids out for a look.
“We were raised back in the McDonald community,” said Ed Ussery as he pointed behind him, up the hill. “We were raised on Ledbetter. I remember when this bridge was just a small bridge. My grandson just asked me if I had seen the lake drained before. It was drained in ‘86. My brother Pete showed us pictures this morning.”
The Usseries had tied a metal loop to the end of a rope, which they dangled off the bridge in hopes of hooking and exposing some of the objects at the bottom. The Usseries said they saw what look like a car frame, a newspaper box, tires, a shopping cart, a ladder, a boat motor and much more.
“I hope we hook us some guns,” said Andrew Boney.
Sandra Ussery said she had heard the first time the lake was drained, there were guns from robberies discovered in the lake.
“They found cars, bikes, guns, refrigerators — all kinds of stuff,” she said.
The drained lake is more like a brown field of tree stumps, with long lines of tracks in the mud from raccoons and geese. Big fish jump in shallow areas, up in what Ed Ussery said is called “the head.”
Ray Roscoe lives in “the head.” He was on the bridge also, checking out the findings.
“I got a cabin that I rent right around that corner,” said Roscoe as he pointed to a bend in the lake. “My pontoon boat is down. It’s pitiful. I’m used to riding out here and fishing.”
Under the bridge, Roscoe pointed to the area he usually brings his boat through. Now, with the water level down, an exposed pile of rubble and concrete — a bystander guessed it was part of the old bridge — waits to prey on boats.
“I bet that’s why there’s a boat motor over there,” said Jackson Boney.
Nessie Edwards lives at 117 Shallow Ford Drive, off of Graham Bridge Road in Rockingham. Due to immobility, she no longer goes down to the lake, but her husband goes down each morning to check on their boat, which has been sitting on the sand since the water went down.
“I don’t like it,” said Edwards. “They drained it last year to fix it and if they had fixed it properly they wouldn’t be draining it now. My husband has to loosen the ropes each day and we are afraid it’s going to mess up our boat.”
In some places, the water is down more than 12 feet. According to Donna Wright, Richmond County Emergency Management director, the lake’s water level is now down to where the dam owners, R.E.C. LLC out of Goldston, can set up scaffolding.
“We met with the owners today,” said Wright on Monday. “The emergency situation is over, and we are going to continue with our plan. Everything looks good so far.”
The owners of the dam will begin their search for an engineer this week.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.