By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Last year it was South Carolina dealing with record-setting rainfall and dozens of breached dams that led to downstream flooding. This year it’s North Carolina’s turn.
Same issue, different state.
Hundreds of dams have been constructed to create lakes used for recreation or flood control. Many of these lakes – and the dams that make them possible – are privately owned. Some lake communities have mandatory homeowners’ associations, and some older ones have voluntary HOAs (often referred to as Lake Associations or Neighborhood Associations).
But when many of these dams were originally constructed, the main goal was to sell lakefront and lake access lots, build and sell houses. Few lake community HOAs were provided with a comprehensive plan for long-term maintenance of their lakes and dams.
Volunteer homeowners don’t know how to inspect or maintain dams to prevent erosion or premature failure. NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources is supposed to regularly inspect the dams, but, like South Carolina, the Department is understaffed. So inspections are not always done as often as necessary.
As a result, many privately-owned dams are poorly maintained, and they tend to fail when put under stress by Mother Nature.
That’s exactly what happened in North Carolina when Hurricane Matthew dumped several inches of rain on the eastern portion of the state earlier this month. (As if the state didn’t already have enough damage caused by severe flooding from storm surge and overflow of river banks.)
To complicate matters, roads were built atop many private dams. But some of those roads are now maintained by city or state governments. The catch is, the government will only repair a flood damaged road if and when the private owner – in most cases an HOA – pays to repair or rebuild the dam first.
These are the circumstances that lead to the problems of Rayconda HOA, a neighborhood in Fayetteville.
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Siple Avenue used to be the only safe way to get in or out of the Rayconda subdivision, but flood water from Hurricane Matthew has changed that.
“Mother Nature came and she just finished the rest for us and we just basically had to do what we did not want to do and that was open this private road that belongs to Rayconda,” said Homeowners Association President Freddy Rivera.
The state shut down Rayconda Parkway two years ago because they deemed it unsafe. Following Hurricane Matthew, the community had to reopen the road to get in and out of their neighborhood.
Read more at:
Additional coverage of this hazardous issue is provided by Fayette Observer here:
So residents of 237 homes in Rayconda HOA have had only one road in and out of the subdivision – Siple Avenue – and it crosses over Keith Lake. The community is now forced to use a private road originally constructed for biking and walking – Rayconda Parkway – to get to and from their homes. But Rayconda parkway is also built over an unsafe earthen dam. The state ordered the Association to close the Parkway a few years ago. Now a city eingineer says the private road is safe enough to allow one vehicle to cross at a time. But it’s not safe for emergency vehicles.
I would call that very poor planning, and a serious safety hazard.
Who should pay to repair deficient dams that are more than 40 years old? Rayconda HOA and several other private associations in Fayetteville have a long history of grappling with the issue. Homeowners often cannot afford the cost. Some simply don’t want their association to take on hundreds of thousands or more than a million dollars in debt to save their lake.
That was the case in Rayconda, as long ago as 2004. At one point, the state was willing to repair the dam beneath Siple Avenue, but then Fayetteville annexed Rayconda and became responsible for the road.
Here’s the history:
Council to decide fate of neighborhood dams
Andrew Barksdale Staff writer Dec 2, 2007
The state first told Rayconda residents that one of the neighborhoods two dams was deficient in 2004. Part of the embankment was eroding, from the street that crosses the dam to the drainage pipe. The neighborhood is south of 71st High School off Raeford Road.
The Rayconda dam is about 50 years old, the typical life expectancy of a dam before repairs are needed, officials said.
Rayconda residents obtained an engineer. They met with the state highway department and county officials to try to resolve the problem.
Then the city annexed Rayconda in 2005, delaying efforts and creating jurisdictional confusion. Construction costs rose, and a dam restoration that initially was to cost $125,000 had more than doubled.
Cook said the state has not taken any enforcement action against the Rayconda Lakes Association, which owns the dam, because the group has been making progress to fix the problems, and the dam is not in jeopardy of collapsing.
Read entire article here:
In August 2015, Fayetteville City Council proposed and Rayconda homeowners approved a proposal to forego repairing the private dam on Siple Avenue. Instead, the City will build a new access road that will not be built over a dam. The plan was to have the new extension off Pinewood Road ready to go by fall of 2017, but now that Siple Avenue has been destroyed thanks to Hurricane Matthew, construction on the new road must be expedited.
It has been almost 13 years since Rayconda Lakes Association and the City of Fayetteville learned about deficient privately owned dams in Rayconda. Unbelievably, it has taken a natural disaster to finally get another access road built for the community’s homeowners and residents.