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Army Corps of Engineers and Raleigh mayor at odds over Falls Lake levels

Posted May 8, 2008
Updated May 9, 2008

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— More rain overnight Thursday and this weekend could push the level at Falls Lake higher. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of different opinions among different government officials.

For Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, the higher the lake the better. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn't see it that way.

“What tends to happen is the dry spell starts in May or June and then by August and September, the lake level is really down. So, by keeping it a little higher in the spring, it'll give us that extra cushion we need to get through the summer,” Meeker said.

The corps, however, is moving ahead with plans to release more than 500 million gallons of water a day to reduce Falls Lake to 6 inches above its normal level.

Drought-weary municipal officials would like to see the lake level pushed even higher, as much as 3 feet above full. That would provide about 4 billion gallons of extra drinking water.

“You just don't know about the weather. It may be a fine summer, but it could be dry. We want to have that assurance,” Meeker said.

A corps spokesman argues that maintaining too much water behind Falls Dam is a flood risk for communities downstream because the lake wouldn't be able to hold back any more water to protect them.

“The corps is definitely in a difficult position on this one,” said Dean Naujoks, of the Neuse River Foundation.

Naujoks said history does show that too much water in Falls Lake could be a problem. He points to the remnants of 2006's Tropical Storm Alberto, which dumped 8 inches of rain on the Triangle. It is a scenario, he said, that could play out again when hurricane season starts in June.

“If Falls Lake is sitting full, you could have some real major issues in terms of downstream flooding and then, obviously, water coming over top the dam,” Naujoks said.

The spokesman said the corps plans to operate Falls Lake conservatively, and that could keep it a little higher than normal.


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  • Sandollar May 9, 2008

    The Corps has a little more education than the mayor. Raleigh does not own or operate Falls Lake. Someone needs to tell this to Meeker. Congress paid for this Dam for a reason. Remember it is the US Army Corps of Engineers not the Mayor Meeker of Raleigh that is responsible for this resource. Engineers means more than one college education.

  • veyor May 9, 2008

    Dont' worry, next week the water rates will go up, and presto, in two weeks or we'll be able to water again.

  • FloydTurbo May 9, 2008

    Meeker has brought this upon himself thru his increasing "I know best" attitude. He has continually circumvented public discourse on issues, preferring to impose his own version of "Meeker's Martial Law" when he senses that there is significant disapproval of his personal agenda. The silly convention center being a classic example. There are numerous others.

    "Crises" will always arise in city, county, national government be it droughts or 9/11. "Leaders" are defined by how they rally consensus support and accept accountability for their actions. Charles Meeker has continually failed in those areas.

  • foetine May 9, 2008

    a flood won't matter to Meeker since it won't ruin houses inside the beltline

  • WRALSUCKS May 9, 2008

    "You people just hate Meeker, and that's all there is to it. "

    No, I'm just fed up with his repeated incompetence

  • obs May 9, 2008

    "You people just hate Meeker, and that's all there is to it. If he did not fight this, and we run into problems of drought again, I am sure I would see the same people in here screaming that Meeker should have fought the acoe..."

    The problem I have with meeker isn't hating him, it's his complete inability to analyze problems, whether they have to do with water, or roads, or any other type of issue facing a growing community.

    The water restrictions were a result of his poor planning during times of lean water supply. Now he is counter-reacting with a potentially dangerous method of stockpiling water during a surplus time. The man cannot simply think or plan and should not be mayor of this town any longer.

    Instead of easing the water restrictions now to provide badly needed water to the landscape, of which there is too much of in the lake, he's holding it in. The army would not need to release it if the water restrictions were eased temporarily.

    No competence whatsoever

  • IceCreamMan May 9, 2008

    The drought is/was nothing but a temporary scare. A decent spring's worth of rain completely eradicated the supposed emergency. If it happens again, no big deal....we'll deal with it and rainfall will eventually catch up. Potential flood damage is MUCH more dangerous, and the threat of a possible drought should not blind gov't officials to that reality.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer May 9, 2008

    You people just hate Meeker, and that's all there is to it. If he did not fight this, and we run into problems of drought again, I am sure I would see the same people in here screaming that Meeker should have fought the acoe.

  • 5-113 FA Retired May 9, 2008

    Hey, who better that our mayor to direct the works of the corps of eng. After all, he's much more qualified that the agency that's been doing what they do a few more years than he's been out of diapers.

  • TheWB May 9, 2008

    Or. . .Or, if a hurricane is coming and a quick drop of the lake is needed the great Mayor can order manditory lawn watering, everybody, everday.