Officials with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and state Attorney General’s Office announced Friday that the state has issued an emergency declaration and will move forward with plans to breach Woodlake Dam in Moore County to ensure the safety of downstream communities.
The dam’s owner, Woodlake CC Corp., will not be able to meet the deadlines outlined in a March 15 consent order signed by Moore County Superior Court Judge James Webb. The consent order required the company to complete the construction of a temporary full breach of the dam by June 28. Although contractors hired by the dam owners initiated work on the dam May 13, based upon information from Woodlake CC Corp.’s own engineers, state dam safety experts have determined that it will not be possible for the company to meet the June 28 deadline.
“Because activities to breach the dam have ceased, the state needs to step in to eliminate the potential flooding risk to downstream communities,” said Secretary Michael S. Regan of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “Our top priority is the safety and welfare of citizens. By taking control and breaching the dam, we will better protect residents downstream during hurricane season and other heavy rain events.”
Woodlake Dam had been deteriorating over the past year because substantial repairs approved by the department had not been addressed by the dam owner. The structure was further compromised during flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October. Following inspection of the dam at that time, dam safety officials issued an order requiring Woodlake CC Corp. to make repairs to the dam. However, the company failed to comply with the order to make the necessary repairs, which resulted in the state taking enforcement action and the subsequent consent order.
“I am joining Secretary Regan in taking this action to protect the people who live in areas surrounding Woodlake Dam,” said North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein. “While my office will continue work to obtain reimbursement from Woodlake CC Corp for the funds used to breach the dam, public safety must be our first priority.”
State dam safety officials are today finalizing contracts with a design firm and construction company and plan to start work at the dam on Monday. Under authority of the state Dam Safety Act, the department will take appropriate legal action to recover the costs of breaching the dam from Woodlake CC Corp.