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Dam problems
Leaks lower water in Turner Lake
County officials say the dam at Turner Lake will be repaired in coming weeks. - photo by Darrell Everidge/The Covington News

The Turner Lake dam is leaking.

It’s not “Sharknado” bad. It’s not about to burst and unleash a torrent of raging bass and catfish.

But it is “deficient,” according to an engineering report requested by the county. And it’s lowered the water in the lake by about two feet already.

Tuesday night, the Newton County Board of Commissioners voted to spend $7,500 (no more than $10,000 if more work winds up being needed) for a quick fix on the dam. Chairman Keith Ellis said the work should last “for the next 20 years or so.”

According to a report by Schnabel Dam Engineering Inc., engineers studied the dam on July 9, noting several specific problems. The water loss appeared to be caused by faulty corrugated metal pipe riser and conduit, which has been repaired in the past. Except for the dam’s crest, which is topped by a paved path, the structure is overrun by trees and brush. The downstream slope is too steep and erosion has occurred near the pipe’s outlet.

“Based on our observations and past experiences (the dam) should be considered deficient,” Schnabel principal engineer Joseph Monroe wrote in his report. He recommended long-term fixes include removing the trees and brush, replacing the pipe with a new siphon system, flattening the dam’s slopes and raising its crest “if needed.”

But that’s expensive, and the county’s bled dry. The commissioners instead chose to adopt the recommended short-term options of plugging the pipe with concrete (designed to expand through any breaks and plug gaps) and repairing or replacing the existing siphon system.

Ellis said the plan is to pump 150 cubic feet of concrete into the drain pipe. The work will cost about $7,500, according to a verbal quote he received from a contractor. Although that amount is in his purview to spend as commission chairman, he asked the council for a vote to support his decision to move ahead with the project. He got it, with commissioner Nancy Schulz adding the proviso that the cost not exceed $10,000.

The money will come from the county’s capital fund. Ellis said work should be completed “on or before September 4.”
The work may include lowering the lake’s water level by another 16 to 24 inches, Ellis added.