Local News

Fed up with inaction, North Carolina DEQ takes control of damaged Moore County dam

Posted June 9, 2017 4:38 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality issued an emergency declaration for Woodlake Dam in Moore County Thursday.

The department's Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources will now have the authority to repair the dam, which was severely damaged after Tropical Storms Julia and Hermine and Hurricane Matthew roared through the state last year.

Emergency declaration for Woodlake Dam

In a statement, DEQ said it will "conduct a temporary full breach of the dam due to its current deficiencies, which if left uncorrected, could result in a failure causing loss of life and significant property damage downstream."

The department claims the dam's owner has been attempting to repair the damage, but they believe the owner is unable to meet the necessary requirements.

“Because activities to breach the dam have ceased, the state needs to step in to eliminate the potential flooding risk to downstream communities,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan.

“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.”

Moore County judge rules for breach of Woodlake Dam

If the dam were to not be repaired, the department said the total damage to surrounding property could exceed $260 million.

"Breaching the dam is a measure essential to provide emergency protection to protect life and property downstream,” DEQ said in its announcement.

That damage is some that people downstream are all too familiar with.

"They had a mandatory evacuation during Matthew. It was definitely terrifying for everybody having to leave your homes, and some people didn't have anything left," resident John Floyd said.

Draining Woodlake Dam means bad news for property owners

"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. “Public safety must be our first priority.”

State dam safety officials finalized contracts Friday with a design firm and construction company and plan to start work at the dam Monday.

Under authority of the state Dam Safety Act, the department will take legal action to recover the costs of breaching the dam.