The owners of a dam in Moore County that threatened to fail under the stress of Hurricane Matthew’s rains are draining the lake and will breach the dam until they decide whether to repair, replace or remove it.
Residents downstream of Woodlake Dam in Vass had to evacuate their homes after the hurricane because state engineers worried the structure would fail and send the contents of 1,700-acre Surf Lake rushing across the landscape.
Bridget Munger, spokeswoman for the Dam Safety Program in the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the owners of Woodlake Resort and Country Club began pumping the water out of the lake shortly after Hurricane Matthew passed. The lake is less than three feet deep now, Munger said, and pumping will continue until it’s empty, which will likely happen by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, Woodlake owners and their consultants also must provide the state with plan for a temporary breach of the dam by the end of next week. Once the plan is approved by the state’s engineers, Munger said, work can begin to temporarily breach the dam so that it can no longer hold water.
Later, the owners will decide whether to replace or repair the dam, or to permanently breach it by removing it.
The spring-fed lake was built in 1968 and, along with two golf courses, is a centerpiece of the gated Woodlake development. The property went into bankruptcy in 2014 and was sold at auction in 2015. The lake was already in trouble when new owners acquired the development.
While the state was prepared to seek an injunction ordering the new owners to drain the lake, Munger said, “The owners have been cooperating,” and the state is satisfied the work going on now will minimize the danger of a dam failure.