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Town leaders to discuss solutions for Hope Mills Lake

Town leaders on Monday night will discuss potential solutions for Hope Mills Lake, which was drained last week after a sinkhole was discovered.

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HOPE MILLS, N.C. — Town leaders on Monday will discuss potential solutions for Hope Mills Lake, which was drained last week after a sinkhole was discovered.

Engineers were inspecting the integrity of the 2-year-old dam, which has had leaks in the past, according to Cumberland County authorities.

A system or structural failure around the drainage system allowed the sinkhole to develop, officials said. It was unclear if natural or man-made factors, or a combination of them, led to the failure.

Mayor Eddie Dees said the town manager and representatives from the firm that built the dam will be at the meeting. They will draft a plan of action for the Board of Commissioners to vote on Monday night.

Dees said the plan will be used to determine how soon the road over the dam can be reopened.

Efforts to capture an alligator spotted in the lake had nothing to do with the situation, Beeman said. The alligator was spotted swimming in a creek downstream before the lake was emptied.

The dam had been under close monitoring because of the potential for a breach to cause damage, he said. On Wednesday, they noticed silt in water coming out of a relief jet, which normally carries clear water. They started gradually releasing water, and by early Thursday, the rate of water loss had increased, which meant the lake was draining itself. By 6 a.m., the lake was dry.

Then, engineers found a sinkhole that had formed underneath the dam, allowing water to escape from the lake uncontrolled.

Because engineers had started a gradual, controlled release of water, though, a large rush of water through the sinkhole was avoided, Beeman said. So far, reports of damage downstream were light.

But the lake will no longer be the centerpiece of the town's planned Fourth of July festivities, Beeman said. Instead, the festivities will be held in the municipal park.

"It's a disaster," said Barbra Martin, who's lived in Hope Mills since 1968. "The lake is our daily income for all the visitors to come."

So far, the town has invested about $14 million in building and maintaining the newer dam. It is still paying off a $4 million loan.

The town has been grappling with problems with this dam and an older dam at the lake since 2003.

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Dan Bowens, Reporter
Bryan Mims, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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