Wilde Lake to be dredged, dam repaired $520,000 project to be undertaken August-October WEST COLUMBIA

March 03, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Columbia's Wilde Lake, lush with woods and brush on its banks and waterfowl on its rippled surface, is a a haven of tranquillity for Columbia residents and visitors.

But this summer the 23-acre lake will be a bustle of activity when work starts on structural repairs to the lake's dam and sediment is dredged for the third time in about eight years.

The $520,000 project, approved Monday by the Columbia Council, will be among the most expensive capital improvements undertaken this year by the Columbia Association, which manages the unincorporated city of 73,000.

The only larger single open space project will be construction of the $5.2 million Fairway Hills golf course.

Work on the two-part project is expected to start in August, and be wrapped up in October.

"It's sort of fortuitous that we're going to do the dam repairs at the same time as the dredging," said Fred Pryor, director of Open Space Management for the Columbia Association.

The dam project will include repairing a water release gate located about midway down the dam structure, replacing the top layer, and possibly inserting steel rods throughout the 25-year-old dam and anchoring them to bedrock.

The state has expressed concern that a powerful storm surge could cause the dam's collapse.

Mr. Pryor said he believes that scenario unlikely, given that the dam survived Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 and several other storms.

A consultant has been asked to study the structure's storm reliability and make a recommendation.

For now, the key element of the dam repair involves removing and replacing the top layer of the structure, which stands about 40 feet high and 50 yards wide.

The face of the dam looks like stair steps built for a giant.

Water cascades in a pleasant sounding rush to a stream that meanders its way to another of Columbia's lakes, Lake Kittamaqundi.

The top "step" or layer -- about 5 feet deep, has started to crumble in places, said Mr. Pryor.

Work crews will first have to chisel away the layer, resulting in the water dropping four or five feet.

When that occurs, sedimentation in some areas will be exposed.

"Exposing the sedimentation will make it much easier to dredge and remove," said Mr. Pryor.

He expects Columbia Association work crews to complete much of the sedimentation removal, rather than having to hire a contractor.

That should result in more areas of the lake being dredged and savings to CA, Mr. Pryor predicted.

A small area of the lake was dredged in 1984 at a cost of $92,000 and another area dredged in 1990 at a cost of $75,000.

In both instances contractors were hired for the work.

The dredging part of this year's lake project is to cost an estimated $200,000.

"We know the lake was dredged in about 1973 and then it didn't need it again for 10 years," said Mr. Pryor.

"Now we've had to dredge it three times in eight years. That's a trend that tells us something's up."

He and his staff believe sedimentation has been occurring rapidly during the past eight years in part because of the county's construction in the early 1980s of Cedar Lane Park.

The park is located above the drainage basin to a stream that feeds the man-made lake, located in the village of Wilde Lake in West Columbia.

During construction of the park, a powerful storm washed out a berm built to control runoff, said Mr. Pryor.

"The sediment that was scattered in the drainage basin probably is still washing into the lake."

For that reason -- and because the lake is heavily used by county residents as well as residents of Columbia -- the Columbia Council plans to ask the county to share the costs.

The council placed a contingency on its approval of the project that prohibits spending money on it until county and state assistance is sought.

Columbia Council representatives hope to meet with county officials soon to discuss the project.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pryor plans to have his staff start drafting a schedule of the project and pulling together background information so residents who live around the lake can be informed what's coming.

"We want the people who live around the lake very involved and informed about what will happen once work starts and what the work schedule will be," said Mr. Pryor.

"The lake will probably be drawn down four or five feet when they start work on the dam, and that's going to leave a lot of mud and sediment exposed. There will be noise from the work and an odor from the mud.

"We don't want someone planning an outdoor wedding on a lawn coming to us and complaining [that] he didn't know about this."

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