Hope Mills Lake refilling behind new dam
Torrential rains on Memorial Day 2003 washed away the lake's earthen dam, and the town has been trying to finance a new dam and a revived lake ever since.Posted — Updated
Torrential rains on Memorial Day 2003 washed away the lake's earthen dam, and the town has been trying to finance a new dam and a revived lake ever since. With a $9.8 million concrete dam in place, Hope Mills began refilling the lake this month.
Trees sprouted in the lake bed, and crews had to clear out any that measured at least 3 inches in diameter. The rest are expected to die off and serve as fish habitat.
"It looks like the jungle," said Donna Gray, who owns a snow cone stand along the lake.
At 750 feet long, the new, zig-zagging dam is 600 feet longer than the old one to meet regulations for holding back the lake's water.
"We call that 'Little Hoover Dam,'" Gray said. "It's such a big dam for such a small lake, but I'm not going to complain."
Mayor Eddie Dees said the dam and spillway were designed to withstand “even the most significant rain events.” Floodwater can spill over four prongs – or “fingers” – in the dam, he said, and at normal levels, the water will flow down a fish ladder in the center of the dam that also will allow fish to migrate upstream from Little Rockfish Creek into the lake.
The dam will be named in honor of former Hope Mills Mayor John Henley.
"If that dam goes, I got news for you: Nobody else will be left around Hope Mills, I don't think," Henley said.
The lake is expected to be filled by August, and town officials plan an October dedication ceremony for the dam.
"Probably the first thing I'll do is dangle my feet in the water to make sure it's wet," resident Mac McHenry said. “Oh my gracious, we miss the water. The one main reason we came out here is for the lake. It's part of the culture here."
"We're going to have a bigger swimming area. We're going to have paddle boats, kayaking. I'm ready," Gray said.