Raleigh plans to spend millions to repair neighborhood lakes

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMarch 6, 2013 

  • Costly repairs

    Raleigh’s stormwater utility department might spend about $12 million in the coming year or so to restore six neighborhood lakes. Here’s how the cost breaks down:

    Brockton Drive Lake, off Green Road in North Raleigh, $3.4 million starting next spring.

    Northshore Lake, near New Hope Church Road in North Raleigh, $3 million starting later this year.

    Upper Longview Lake, behind Enloe High in East Raleigh, $2.2 million starting last month.

    Lower Longview Lake, off New Bern Avenue, $2 million starting at the end of the year.

    Laurel Hills Lake, off Edwards Mill Road near Crabtree Valley, $1-2 million starting this summer.

    Brentwood Today Lake, $2.5 million if restoration is approved.

— Upper Longview Lake off New Bern Avenue has shrunk to the point where it barely qualifies as a pond, and the stream feeding it offers a textbook example of severe erosion for students from nearby Enloe High.

The manmade lake, built along with the surrounding neighborhood half a century ago, is getting a $2.2 million restoration.

The project isn’t just about fixing a neighborhood amenity.

The improvements are needed for flood control, pollution control and infrastructure maintenance on the adjacent roads and sidewalks.

Upper Longview is just one of 100 lakes that Raleigh’s stormwater department oversees, and it’s one of six scheduled for massive overhauls in the coming two years.

“The ones we have right now have been deemed strategically important,” said Scott Bryant, an engineer with the department.

Most are located in midcentury neighborhoods close to the Beltline, where dams, spillways and other lake infrastructure are outdated and crumbling.

Many of the upgrades are required by the state’s dam maintenance program.

Left alone, a failing dam could cause flooding and destroy the city streets that run atop them.

“At some point, it becomes a matter of something has to be done for public safety,” Bryant said.

The overhauls involve extensive construction.

The Upper Longview work could take as long as two years.

Crews are working their way downstream, clearing vegetation growing into the creek and smoothing steep erosion along Locke Lane.

At several points along that street, the sidewalk perches precariously above the stream where the banks have crumbled.

The work also includes a rock wall behind the bleachers of Enloe’s football field to prevent further erosion.

When workers finally reach the lake, it will be drained and dredged to be restored to its original size. “We’re going to take out a lot of that sediment, dry it out and remove it completely,” said project manager Todd Rall.

The costs will be covered by a zero-interest loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

Other projects have had more challenges in finding funding.

In the Brentwood neighborhood off Capital Boulevard, the Brentwood Today Lake dried up last year after its dam collapsed.

Residents want the city to commit to a $2.5 million fix.

But some city leaders have suggested creating a wetland instead, an option they call less expensive and more environmentally friendly.

The issue currently rests with the Raleigh City Council’s Public Works Committee, which hasn’t discussed it in months.

If the property owners were to cover the work, they’d each have to pay about $70,000, Bryant estimates.

And while the city landed state funds for the Upper Longview Lake project, local money will likely pay for other upcoming restorations on Laurel Hills, Brockton Drive and Northshore lakes.

Stormwater utility fees instituted in 2003 should cover those projects; the average homeowner’s fee is about $81 annually.

When the lakes were first built, the plan – in many cases – was to have homeowners associations provide regular maintenance.

But some of the organizations fizzled over the years, leaving a growing list of repairs.

Many cities across the country are also getting saddled with lake restoration, another aspect of national infrastructure concerns.

“I don’t think Raleigh’s unique in that situation,” Bryant said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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