Confusion continues to mount in the Ledbetter community over the fate of the dam and lake, which was drained last summer.
Frank Parker called a meeting at McDonald Baptist Church on McDonald Church Road in Rockingham, where owners of homes on the Ledbetter Lake met, filling the fellowship hall on Wednesday. They were expecting to hear from the owners of the dam, which has been under surveillance after a leak caused Emergency Management to contact the owners about a potentially dangerous situation last July.
The meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. but Dean Brooks, a representative of dam owner R.E.C., LLC of Goldston, N.C., didn’t arrive until 3:25 p.m., at which point he considered leaving, according to Parker.
“He only brought five or six copies of his presentation,” said Parker to the nearly full fellowship hall, while Brooks waited outside. “He is concerned about people asking questions.”
Parker asked the crowd for Brooks if they would consider forming a committee of five individuals to meet with him instead of the crowd, to which the lake’s residents in attendance responded “no” in unison.
“What if he comes in and talks and we agree not to ask questions?” asked one member of the crowd.
“Why call us here if we can’t ask questions?” asked another.
The large group of nearly 50 people agreed not to ask questions and to allow Brooks to speak.
“We weren’t prepared with information for this,” said Brooks to the attendees. Brooks brought a colleague, Bruce Cox, with him. “Of course all the information pertaining to this is public knowledge, we’re not trying to hide anything.”
Brooks gave some background information on the purchase of the dam, and its construction 133 years ago. He said the concrete structure was sound, yet always had two small leaks in it. He said the leaks got plugged up from time to time with pine needles, which would then rot out and allow water through those leaks again.
Brooks said after being notified by the state that the dam would need repairs and the lake would need to be lowered, he began searching for an engineer to evaluate the dam. He hired Engineer Paul Cyr of Design Kleinschmidt Associates, who Brooks said was from South Carolina, and one of the country’s best concrete dam specialists.
“His comments were, ‘This is a pretty simple fix. There are no structural problems. I’m impressed with the concrete, as old as the dam is,’” said Brooks about the engineer’s evaluations.
Brooks explained that he received a letter from the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources Land Quality Section listing six items that needed to be addressed in the dam’s repair.
“Cyr goes through the six items, gets them fixed and the state just shot it down,” said Brooks, who said the state then added two more items to the list.
Brooks said he became frustrated after a conference call with the state department, saying, “I’m trying to keep the funds down. There is no reason to do this. We’ve seen no evidence the leaks are worse. I’m looking at the costs getting to be more than a small business can handle. We told the state we don’t have taxpayer funds.”
Brooks said he felt that the Ledbetter community ought to take control of the dam, since it affected them directly.
“You guys shouldn’t have to do it,” said Brooks. “But we’re probably not going to be able to come up with the funds to repair the dam. You have more stake in it. As a group, we should get together and get this lake filled back up. We’re prepared to turn the ownership of the dam over to you at no cost, as long as we can keep access to the hydro.”
R.E.C. LLC is a hydroelectric power generation company.
Brooks pointed out that with the lake down, leaks can’t be checked. He said the lake shouldn’t have been lowered when it was.
“There were lots of ways we could have done it,” said Brooks. “You don’t take a lake down during the summer like that. I don’t know why we didn’t have a huge fish kill. You’ve seen we have a little bit of water in that lake; there are some fish there. I reckon there is enough there to restock it. The state said they’re not worried about fish.”
Meeting attendees asked how much time they had, to which Brooks responded, “Not much.”
According to a letter from Tracy E. Davis, director of the NCDENR’s Land Quality Section dated Oct. 3, 2012, a request for a 12 month extension of time to the Notice of Deficiency issues July 20, 2012 was denied. The letter states that by January 15, 2013 there should have been “Two sets of calculations, detailed construction plans and specifications submitted to the Dam Safety Section,” and that by March 15, 2013 construction should be initiated. Construction should be completed by July 1, 2013, according to the letter, with “Record drawings and engineer’s certification … submitted to Dam Safety Section” by July 31, 2013.
The main meeting was concluded while five members of the community met in private with Brooks and Parker to further discuss the fate of the dam.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.