Lake to be drained for repairs

Water level to drop 4 feet at Elkhorn to fix dam, boat dock

September 19, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Lake Elkhorn will become a big mud puddle for the next five months as the Columbia Association lowers the water level to implement $540,000 in repairs to the lake's concrete dam, boat dock and pier.

The water will be lowered by 4 feet for the work, which is scheduled to begin late this month. The lake is less than 4 feet deep along much of the shoreline, particularly on the eastern edge, said Warren Raymond, the association's assistant director for open space management.

"It will be a little unsightly for a little while, but I think it's very necessary," he said. "We want to make sure it's all safe and secure. Hopefully, we'll get it all done and get the water all in it before you know it."

A structural analysis of the dam found its concrete spillway cracked and its grouting in need of repair, according to a description of the project in the association's fiscal 2001 budget, which included $300,000 for the work.

The wooden dock and pier are cracked and rotted, according to a description in the 2002 budget, which allocated $240,000 for their replacement.

At the same time, Howard County is repaving about two miles of pathways at the lake. The county owns part of the pathway system and the Columbia Association owns the rest. The county's portion circles about half the lake and extends to Oakland Mills Road, Raymond said.

The pathway project is slated to begin today and is expected to be completed in a month. People should be able to walk around the lake while the work is in progress, Raymond said.

The projects will not address another problem facing many of Columbia's three man-made lakes and 21 ponds, which are filling with sediment and decaying plants more quickly than they can be cleaned.

A pond study released last month found that 13 of Columbia's ponds need work, at a cost of $625,000 to $1.1 million over the next five to eight years. No price has been put on dredging Lake Elkhorn, which is 37 acres, or Lake Kittamaqundi, which is 27 acres. It cost about $1.4 million to dredge 22-acre Wilde Lake and repair its dam in the early 1990s.

Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson Stewart of Owen Brown said dredging projects will be considered in future budgets. In the meantime, she's pleased to see work beginning at Lake Elkhorn, which is in her village.

"We are glad that this has finally come about," she said. "We first had to do a study of it, and so it's been at least two years in the making."

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