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Dry summer ahead for Lake Peachtree

The Peachtree City Council learned Thursday that the structural problems with the Lake Peachtree spillway extend further than the human eye can see.

That’s why engineers lowered a special high-definition camera under the surface to “get to the bottom” of the problem.

Down below is a cavern-like environment that has been created by erosion, endangering the spillway to the point where the lake has to remain low until the structure can be repaired or replaced.

Unfortunately, the lake is likely to remain that way through at least the summer if not considerably longer.

There is no concrete start date for the repairs at this point, as county officials can’t proceed with a design until they get a blessing from the state. The Georgia Safe Dams program is evaluating the potential hazard to downstream properties if the dam or spillway were to fail.

That decision, expected by the end of this month at the earliest, is crucial because it will play a factor in the extent of the repairs, according to Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson.

If the state classifies the lake, dam and spillway as one that could “endanger human life downstream” if breached, the county may appeal that decision due to the potential significant increase in repair costs ... thus further delaying the spillway repair and eventual refilling of the lake.

While the county has been working behind the scenes, including the modeling of what could happen if a dam breach occurred — the city council has decided to hire a special attorney to handle the matter on its behalf as council continues to get an earful from residents displeased with the unsightly lake bed, a far cry from the lake’s usual pastoral charm.

Council appointed attorney Andrew Welch of McDonough, who gave a brief presentation at Thursday’s council meeting. At his recommendation, council voted unanimously to send a letter to the county outlining the city’s expectation that the lake be refilled as soon as possible.

Councilman Eric Imker expressed frustration that the issue has dragged on so long, arguing that the county should be drawing up plans for the more expensive repairs right away without waiting to see what EPD’s decision will be. Imker said he didn’t care about the cost, but he is also presuming that the county water system will foot the entire bill, which at this point remains to be seen — and is likely another reason council decided to hire an attorney for this particular issue.

Under a 1966 agreement updated in 1985, the county is required to maintain the dam and spillway through the year 2034 since it is using the lake as a water reservoir. However, Rapson has indicated the county will evaluate whether it even needs to pull water from the lake anymore.

It’s not immediately clear whether shutting off the spigot would absolve the county of its spillway and dam repair responsibility.

The Citizen learned this week that the county is looking to speed up the lake dredging process so it can be done while the lake level is low, particularly since there is no answer likely on the spillway repair process for at least another month.

By the end of July, the county expects to have its emergency action plan for the repairs, assuming there are no further delays.

The mostly dry yet mucky lakebed has been a sore sight for residents’ eyes far longer than anticipated when it was drained in January for what was thought to be just two months. The muck has also been a source of amusement for some, as children have played in the dirt and adults have driven their vehicles on the lake bed, only to get stuck in the mud, receiving an obligatory citation from the police department for improper use of the lake.

The underground video camera feed from beneath the spillway, played for the city council Thursday night, showed a cavern-like environment. The spillway is designed to help prevent a potential dam breach which would cause significant flooding downstream.

Because that void increased the potential for the spillway to fail, the county has kept the lake level low while the matter is investigated, city Community Services Director Jon Rorie said.
The county uses the lake as a source of raw drinking water through an agreement with the city, as the city owns the lake.

The county is waiting to hear back from state regulators as to whether the lake’s dam and spillway are rated as a “category 1” or “category 2” hazard. If determined to be a category 1 rating, the repairs are expected to be far more expensive than if the lake is deemed a category 2 by the state.



SPQR's picture

Bad news for lake Peachtree. Good news for lake Kedron

The city needs to go on the offensive here and ask the county to provide the records for each dam inspection since the agreement was signed. Bet the county won't find anything from the old water dept director (whose still on the payroll).

While I understand that dam classifications change, how could no one in the county or city not know what classification the dam falls under? If the county was inspecting the dam and making repairs over the years, they had to know what specifications they were trying to meet otherwise, what were they doing?

is well aware of the lack of management and oversight by the former leadership at the county level. As we all are. From the water director to the county administrator to the commissioners, there has been a complete overhaul all the way around. It has been well documented the shoddy work and practices that have gotten this county to where it was until about a year ago. The current BOC (water system) has now contracted with 2 or 3 firms to get the information needed, they are working with state agencies necessary to get the classification and have a specific, defined timetable to proceed if the state will approve the plans based on what they decide is needed. The mayor, city engineer and city manager have been informed on a regular basis on all of this.

Have you been by it in the last few days since the rains? It actually doesn't look half bad from what I saw.

That the current BOC is only picking up the pieces left from poor management from the past. Perhaps Mr. Brown can designate Mr. Barlow as the liaison. Make him go thru all the past water dept records to see what you know who did regarding past inspections.

Based on the county administrators first volley, I think it would be wise to gather all the info as ammunition. Just in case.

It's still kind of sad that we have to go to the state for them to tell us what class of dam we have, even if they update the ratings from time to time.

I did view the lake as I meandered to Home Depot on Sat. along Hwy 54. Guess I missed spotting the water.

"management". Check out the 370K item on BOC agenda coming in for design services for capital improvements at the Crosstown Treatment plant. Money is already there from that MIEX fiasco before the stinky water came about. This is very much a work in progress and is being addressed.

What else does the state have to do but create classes and rules and guidelines to follow? Regulate everything that hasn't already been regulated, I guess. If not, the feds will do it.

I was at Battery Park tonight. There were multiple golf carts, the parking lot was almost full. Skateboarders, families playing on the playground, and about 8 new duck families swimming around. The usual assortment of walkers, runners and doggies going by. 2 kids on kayaks in the inlet pond on the other side of the path bridge there, too. Did not hear one person complain or even talk about the lake. Too busy recreating and enjoying the warm evening. The sun still seemed to know where to set at dusk, even with the lowered pool of water. The green grass has come in quite nicely for now. I think we can all survive this summer without the full lake, if it comes to that.

I don't know what you mean by first volley and ammunition. Just in case what? Please share, mon frere.

When the county administrator spoke about the possibility of shuttling the lake as a water source, I take it as a first volley.

He's not stupid. He's setting something in motion. Just don't know what that is.

My question there would be has our city manager talked with him about it? Isn't that a function of our city manager, to communicate with the county and other governments about matters that affect this city?

I want to tread lightly here because I'm not 100% sure I have been able to acquire all the facts.

Let's just ask Mr. Brown; Mr. Brown is it true that since there will be cost (approx. 2MM plus)to repair the damn and fill the lake that you are holding two positions? 1). the lake is no longer needed as water for the county now that we have lake McIntosh therefore it does not need to be fixed and refilled and 2). If PTC wants the damn fixed and the lake filled it is PTC problem not the county. Is this true?

Based on the information I've been given I would assume this to be the facts. If this is the case, I'm confused, since about 40% of the entire county live in PTC why doesn't the county just obtain a 20 year bond repair the damn and fill in the lake and move on. Stop wasting the taxpayers time and money on attorneys and senseless back and forth. You politicians waste more time on the back-and-forth than just doing what is right, and doing what needs to be done. And, it always cost more in the long-run. A perfect example would be the Target center in Kedron. If the city (under your watch)would have done what the developer proposed the center we be much nicer than it is. Highway 54 west is another example of government getting in the way. On the Hwy 54 west development we've gone from a gated community to tract homes (metaphor) and we've lost 8 years of tax revenue for the privilege. This is simply why politicians make very poor business owners and good business owners can't get elected as politicians.

Steve....there is a 50 year contract between the county and the city in reference to Lake Peachtree. Please do what is right, pay for the damn to be fixed, and refill the lake. Otherwise you will have an eye-sore that will turn into wetlands and devalue all homes in Peachtree City therefore collecting less tax-dollars over time. This is called cause -and-effect. Since district voting you are to represent the citizens of PTC as well.

Remember a good 40% of the cost to fix the damn and refill the lake will be from the PTC tax-payers anyway. Let's just do it and move on. Politicians worry about everything that's wrong instead of creating and building a better future, a better tomorrow. I would encourage the politicians and the citizens to quit living 20 years behind schedule. Why is it that all the other elite counties have so much more than us and their quality of life is so much better? And the value of their homes are higher. Our county and our city is looking older and more run down by the day. Let's not argue over stupid stuff...fix it and move on to pro-active ideas that create quality and value.

Steve, tell me if I am wrong on the information I have regarding the lake.

According to the city council and county BOC meeting minutes, they don't know what classification the dam falls under. If its class "A" for example, they can repair it this way. If its a "B" it gets fixed another way.

Can't imagine how they performed maintenance on the thing for years without knowing what standards they had to maintain.

Can you imagine a business owner not testing their fire alarm or certifying fire extinguishers every year?

You hit the nail on the head. Your statement, "I am not 100% sure I have been able to acquire all the facts."

That is true at the county and at the city. The facts are not there yet. The state and the engineers have not come back with the information to make any decisions yet. And yet, the city has hired a second attorney for this now. Why? No answer. No explanation. Have you asked the city why the need for this expense? Nowhere has anyone mentioned the county has, in your words, wasted taxpayers time and money on attorneys and senseless back and forth. There is nothing to decide yet, since the facts are not available to make decisions. And yet, here we have, for the second time with these 3, an attorney hired for what?

at the County level...let's see...have any of them ever changed positions repeatedly on issues?

The County is under agreement to maintain the dam/spillway..clearly they have not...I say hold their feet to the fire. And sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a good Attorney to do that. Especially if they haven't shown the ability to do it in the past.

To do what? There is nothing decided yet since the facts are not in yet. Do you know for a fact that they have not maintained the spillway? When and how were those cracks created? Has the city asked to see the records? Has the city been informed of what the county is doing? Does it take the expense of a second attorney to ask questions and have discussions and come to an agreement on how to proceed? Really, if you think the city is doing this for a "trust" issue, you do not have all the facts.

Steve Brown and Steve Rapson both live in Peachtree City. Both have worked for this city as elected and staff. This is the first time ever this city has the experience and knowledge at county level combined to work together to resolve issues with any city council. Instead this mayor and council go and hire a second attorney to get in the middle of it. Great move, yes, just so needed right now. How much are you willing to pay for this attorney? Was the last one they hired worth it?

Who at the city is responsible to see that the county lives up to the contract by inspecting and maintaining the dam for the past 20+ years? I would think there would have been a yearly inspection at minimum and a much more detailed inspection every 5 years.

Or does the city sign contracts and just hope others follow it?

Records baby, records. Do you think the ole former water director has any?

What difference at this point does it make? It has been well documented in so many ways already the deficiencies of the county (water) leadership in the past. It is also true that laws and regulations have changed drastically over the last almost 50 years. Who has the records of how the dam was built? My guess, a bunch of boulders and fill dirt and some cement were thrown together to create a mound and the cement slab was laid on top to form the so called dam. Go down Kedron Drive or over to Rockspray pond and compare the dam requirements now to what see a perfect example of how government has changed the rules over the years.

A new set of laws are in place, regulations, too. The county has hired professionals to give options on what needs to be done. One of those options should include a discussion of any future needs of Lake Peachtree as a water source. If not now, when? Where is the perceived threat to the city in any of this that requires the expense of an additional attorney at this point? I have not heard it. Has anyone?

in many areas....

I know the Lake Spivey Dam/Spillway in Jonesboro was redone a few years back..might be interesting to look that up and see the costs involved...Private vs Govt, but I know it was redone..

It's fairly obvious it hasn't had anything done to it in years.

The County is clearly responsible for its upkeep per the agreement that the City has posted.

I don't claim to know everything, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out the County appears to have dropped the ball.

We will see where this goes.

Not trying to argue with anyone on this, but I can see why the City Council could have some doubt.

discussing, that's all.

Are you aware of how many discussions have taken place over this between staff? Or, how many have taken place over this between city elected and county elected? I am not aware. I would expect to be made aware of those facts before any decision is made to get legal counsel hired. Is that asking too much of elected here? The silence is deafening from the mayor and council and city management. Where this goes now, is in our tax or debt burden. From every angle possible. City, county, and now legal, without explanation. I find the last one unacceptable to this point.

SPQR's picture

beware of that da*** spell check

SPQR's picture

beware of that da*** spell check

is why a volley? Quit playing games and do the job. Arguing over this stuff while the city and county are going to hell in a hand-basket. These people are so far behind the curve that if they owned a gas station they would still have employees who pumped gas for their customers with a sign NO Checks Cash Only. We can't even get a SPLOST passed while the affluent counties (the ones where home values are high, art-centers, nice parks, etc)are passing their SPLOST by 3 to 1 . Absolutely frustrating when you know we could be so much more.

What was the point of the county manager stating in last weeks article that the county may not need to use Lake Peachtree as a water source any more?

Is the county planning to shut the tap? He didn't say this to hear himself talk, did he?

Is that not a topic of discussion that would be timely right now? Why not bring it up as a discussion? Isn't that his job to look at options best for the county and the water system? I would say he was not fulfilling his role if he did not bring it up for discussion. You can debate how he did it any way you want. This county administration is open and engaged. For this city council and management to take that as a legal threat says more about their lack of skill in fulfilling their roles. The days of behind the scenes good old boy negotiating are over, folks. I expect the citizens to be informed as to what the management and elected are thinking if you are an elected or hired to serve us. It is your duty to inform us before you take steps to hire an attorney without informing the taxpayers the reason for doing it. It also speaks to your inability to work with the county to resolve an issue. Who has heard the justification yet from either the city manager or mayor or council for the need for any attorney to be hired on this issue?

I have no problem with this discussion.

But it should not have made the papers, YET. The timing made it appear that the county was throwing a dart against the wall to see the reaction. I don't want to say it was a threat, but it didn't sit well with many people, including myself. Like, if we don't need it, its your problem.

This discussion should have started with a conversation between county and city managers and left out of the public until they know what the heck they are doing with the dam.

I don't remember reading that Lake McIntosh was a replacement source, but rather a new source for growth. If the county doesn't need the lake as a water source and they can prove that this is more of a burden than having belts and suspenders, then lets have the discussion. But the dam needs to be brought up to code.

The timing was poor.

is the adult, mature way of addressing a potential issue. I mean, look at us. It also shows the actual leadership of those voted in to office to do exactly that, lead. The Citizen article was published on Wed., May 28th. On Thursday, June 5th, 7 days later, an attorney was already hired and giving legal counsel. Where is the communication record between city and county in those 7 (or 5 working) days to prove the discussion had already demanded the hiring of an attorney at our expense?

Prove it, mayor and council. Show us the proof of need.

peanutgallery's picture

Skimming the crust off sediment every few years in a too shallow basin is a waste of money. The spillway erosion problem has brought attention from all the authories necessary to do something. Perfect time to have county and city cooperation do what it takes to make things right with Lake Peachtree.

Bring in the heavy earth moving gear and take out 10 to 20 feet of the basin floor. Spread that soil downstream to fill in the useless marshland behind The Fred. Create a proper Lake Peachtree as the centerpiece of this well palnned community, and some beautiful parkland at the same time...


Peanut gallery

G35 Dude's picture

I could be wrong here. That happened once before. LOL But I think the land that you're referring to behind the Fred is designated wetlands and can't just be filled in without replacing it with an equal amount of wetland somewhere else.

TinCan's picture

Well, I could take a couple of loads to fill in the sink hole in my back yard where the debris buried by the good ol' builders is now disintegrating.

peanutgallery's picture

Hi G35,

Understand the need to offset any encroachment of designated wetland acerage. Took notice of how that is done while reviewing the final expense report for Lake Mac.

Fayette County paid more for wetland credits to offset the footprint of that projecte than it cost to build it. Many millions of our dollars.

BTW - Maybe we could claim we are replacing 10 to 20 acres of that lake bottom wetland with the new parkland below a deeper Lake Peachtree. Be inreresting to see how the feds prove THAT land is not wet!!!

Just joshing - you are correct. We would have to go back to wetlands credit trading table and buy a few more.


Peanut gallery

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is nothing useless about the wetlands in and around this county. We are blessed to have them as this county grows.

I remember when I took my first stroll down that boardwalk behind the ampitheater about 20 years ago. I thought I had entered a new world. Guess I had led a citified life till then and will never forget the tiny details of what was there and hopefully will be there for years to come. See some of the work being done:

and their Facebook page (scroll down to the section on ticks this year and then below that see the 5 foot black rat snake)

I guess we differ in our perception of what is useless. Although, if I had run into that snake, I might be singing a different tune here.

peanutgallery's picture

Gotta face the truth - we've got a flooded swamp where a lake should be..

Skimming the crust off sediment every few years in a too shallow basin is a waste of taxpayer money. Now that a spillway erosion problem has brought attention from all the authories necessary to do something???, it is a perfect time to have county and city cooperation display leadership in doing whatever it takes to make things right with Lake Peachtree.

Bring in the heavy earth moving gear and cut out 10 to 20 feet of the basin floor. Spread that soil downstream to fill in 10 to 15 of our thousands of acres of precious wetlands to create a proper Lake Peachtree as the centerpiece of this well palnned community, and some beautiful parkland at the same time...


Peanut gallery

You can't simply take the spoils from the lake bed and place it elsewhere, especially planned wetlands.

The wetlands actually help slow rainwater runoff. If we filled the wetlands, the rainwater has to go someplace else. Where would that be?

peanutgallery's picture

Fully agree that our wetlands are both useful,.. AND beautiful examples of unspoiled nature.

Please consider that we have several thousand acres of precious wetlands preserved within the borders of our well planned city.

That is why I can justify sacrificing 10 to 20 acres(i.e., less than 1%), to create both a proper lake with 10+ times the reservoir capacity AND some beautiful parkland at the same time.

Makes no sense to continue spending taxpayer money to patch both the dam and the sediment problem simply to continue the farce of having a centerpiece lake. Everybody can clearly see that what we actually have is a flooded swamp. An expensive to maintain flooded swamp. There is a reason Lake Peachtree power boating privileges are restriced to redidents living along the West bank. That is where Line Creek flowed before the dam was put in place. Before that the West bank of Lake Peachtree was the West bank of Line Creek. Over time that creek carved out a narrow channel in what is mostly the shallow flooded swamp we see exposed today.

I'm not saying anything other than lets make it right,...and tossing out my best idea for doing that. Carpe Diem,..(seize the moment)while money has to be spent and all the right folks are focused on the issue. All it would take is one responsible advocate to call for a study of doing the RIGHT thing, whatever that might be.


Peanut gallery

twice. Your point is so taken. Convinced me with the second one. Of course, convinced of what, I will just say wow.

Gort's picture

I can almost smell it in the air, can?__t you? No, not the lake bed, but the future ?__Save Lake Peachtree!?_? Vote ?__Yes?_? on the next SPLOST election campaign.

Remember: If you think Social Security and Medicare are worth saving, vote for the Democrat.

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