By Mayor Carol Pritchett, August 10, 2022
If you attended the recent Lake Lure Round Table Meetings in August, you may have heard directly about the following updates. For those who may not have had the opportunity to join us, I would like to share some important information with you about the many advancements that are currently underway in Lake Lure.
Collaboration with TDA for Future Growth: The Town of Lake Lure is excited to continue to partner with the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) and Rutherford Bound as we focus on developing the Morse Park Master Plan. The next phase of the plan includes enhanced trail connectivity; opportunities to further develop the amphitheater; and expanded parking in Morse Park which are integral projects that will enhance our community. We are actively seeking grant funding from the State of North Carolina to help pay for these significant improvements. The grant funding would be used to install new restrooms, picnic shelters, and a playground in the park, as well as expanding the main parking lot near the marina. The parking lot will feature new parking spaces, native landscaping, and storm water control measures designed to help protect the water quality of our Town’s namesake.
Preserved Landmarks and Enhanced Viewing Areas: In July, we cut the ribbon to celebrate the grand opening of the newly renovated Gazebo Overlook and Walkway in Morse Park. We are thrilled with the refinement of this area, which is a true landmark for the Town. These entities overlook our pristine lake, the Lake Lure Beach, and the expanded Washburn Marina and floating Boardwalk. These improvements were part of the previous year’s collaborative projects. The Morse Park Gazebo Overlook includes the new seawall, new pathway with pavers, fencing, and gorgeous landscaping. Also, the Gazebo has been freshly painted preserving this Lake Lure landmark for years to come! I would like to extend my appreciation to the Rutherford County TDA for their grant of $143,750 which was matched by the Town of Lake Lure.
Expanded Trail Parking: In August we held a Ribbon Cutting for the Parking Lot in Buffalo Creek Trail. The new parking lot provides better access to Buffalo Creek Park, Buffalo Creek Loop Trail, and the Buffalo Creek Boulder Trail. The parking lot previously accommodated 6-8 cars and now can accommodate as many as 35 vehicles. This parking lot was installed thanks to generous contributions from the Tourism Development authority, Rumbling Bald Resort, Carolina Climber’s Coalition, and the Town of Lake Lure. We appreciates the opportunity to work with these organizations as we continue to help make Lake Lure a better place live, to work and play.
Cell Tower: Improving internet access will also make Lake Lure even more appealing and we are making progress on this critical project. The Town has been working with AT&T to bring dependable, usable 5G cell and internet coverage to our area. A lease has been signed to place a cell tower on the Town property off Boys Camp Road, across the Broad River from Town Hall. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service signed off for the tower and we are awaiting approval from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). A “balloon test” conducted in late spring illustrated the visual impact of the 195’ tower on area historic properties. We have been advised to anticipate SHPO’s final decision by early fall. At that time the Lake Lure Tower should be moving toward finalizing the Town’s permitting and onto construction. The process has taken longer than expected but it is coming!
2023 Drawdown Schedule: I am delighted to report that the lake will be operational throughout the holidays and for this entire calendar year. Town Council has confirmed the drawdown schedule for 2023 and the plan is to begin lowering the lake on 1/1/23. The lake will be lowered about one (1) foot per day until the lake is twelve (12) feet below full pond (990.5 mean sea level). Lake levels will vary during the drawdown between (5) feet below full-pond and (12) feet below full-pond, depending on the work requirements of contractors.
The Town will work as strategically and efficiently as possible during the lake drawdown periods. It is anticipated that the lake will begin refilling on 3/31/23. Contractors working on seawall repairs/replacement must be out of the lake by 3/15/23. The rate of refilling the lake is dependent upon weather conditions but information will be posted on the Town’s website regarding weekly lake levels. We plan to work on the following projects during the 2023 lake drawdown: sewer system replacement project moves forward; dredging with excavators; seawall repair/replacement; an upgrade to the hydro-electric substation; and progress toward the creation of an access ramp near the dam.
Dredging: Dredging is still underway in the main channel and will continue throughout the year through hydraulic dredging. Since January 1, 2022, 42,000 cubic yards of sediment have been dredged out of the lake. We have spent approximately $490,000 towards the $1 million dredging budget for 2022. In November we will re-apply to NC DEQ Water Resources Development Program for another grant for 2023. Our goal is to invest $1 million in dredging in 2023 through congoing grants with matching funds from the Town.
Sewer System Replacement: The Town of Lake Lure is progressing with the sewer system replacement project. The replacement plan will utilize the backshore area of the lake to install a gravity lift system (GLS) that uses a combination of gravity sewer lines and pumping manholes to provide sewer access around the perimeter of the lake. Lake Lure’s new eco-friendly sewer system will minimize the land disruption while allowing property owners to maintain and enhance property values by providing a sound new system that protects the environment. The new GLS will eliminate system issues and prevent failures that could occur if no action was taken.
The sewer system replacement is a long term solution which will provide service to areas not easily served currently. It will simplify the connection effort, providing access to a gravity sewer for each property on the lake. The Town will be able to carry out operations and maintain the system year-round. A significant benefit of the new system is that your renovation/rebuild options will significantly increase with the new system in place and property owners will have the option of making additions once the project is complete. Although quite a lot of ground work has been laid to support this project, the first phase that includes property owners will begin in the first quarter of 2023.
The Town applied for and obtained an $8 million grant for the Sewer System replacement project from the NC American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund, in addition to a $12.5 million low interest loan from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) Division of Water. I am pleased to report that the Town of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village are working together to develop an inter-local agreement for the sewer system. The agreement would allow for a joint application for ARPA funds up to $30 million to support the sewer system infrastructure, if adopted.
Wastewater Treatment Plant: Renovations to the wastewater treatment plant will be included in Phase 1 of the replacement project described above. These renovations will improve its operation until the eventual rehabilitation and conversion to a biological process capable of meeting the current water quality standards.
Dam Replacement: The Town is utilizing another $16 million in grant funding from the NC ARPA funds to move the dam replacement project forward. Most recently this has involved the reservoir drain design, permitting, and procurement. We are in the process of purchasing the reservoir drain and hope to install this before the end of 2023. Additionally, we have submitted our 5th and 6th applications for FEMA Grants to move this project forward. One grant is for the 30% Design Project for the Lake Lure Replacement Dam from the FY22 FEMA Annual Appropriations. The second project is for construction costs associated with the Reservoir Drain Installation from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Funding.
We are making consistent progress toward our goal of rebuilding the infrastructure here in Lake Lure for future generations. As autumn approaches, all of these projects will be moving forward. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Town of Lake Lure as this important work could not continue without the dedication of all our citizens.