Updated: Feb 14
Georgia Baptist Mission Board declines to provide estimated completion date for work on dam, the extent of work being completed, or the reason for the work.
On Jan. 21, Stephens County officials announced that Lake Louise Road, which travels between East Currahee Street/Hwy, 123 and Prather Bridge Road/Hwy. 184, and provides access to the Georgia Baptist Conference Center as well as Shiloh Baptist Church and several residential areas, will be closed to through traffic for an undetermined amount of time.
The reason for the closure, per information provided by the county, is work being completed on Lake Louise Dam. While the county owns the roadway and adjacent right-of-way, the dam itself it part of the Georgia Baptist Conference Center campus and is owned and maintained by the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
While a general description of the work being done that necessitated the road closure was provided to the county, and included lowering of the lake and repairs on the dam, including work that would increase the dam from a “category 2” dam to a “category 1” dam, according to County Adminstrator Phyllis Ayers, there was no timeline or specific parameters of the work provide, Ayers told ConnectLocal.News, advising that the owner would need to be contacted to obtain further information.
ConnectLocal.News contacted Bill Wheeler, Director at Georgia Baptist Conference Center, who explained that the dam project was not a locally-managed project, and that the details on the work being done could be requested from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board communications representative Mark Strange.
After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the communications office and Strange, including an email with a set of questions regarding the work on the dam that was unanswered for more than 3 business days, ConnectLocal.News attempted to contact Strange’s supervisor, Lead Strategist for the Mission Board’s Research and Development division John Courtney, and forwarded the email questions regarding the work on the dam to his email address. More than five business days later, after two additional voice mail messages were left for Courtney, ConnectLocal.News received a telephone call from Courtney, who advised ConnectLocal.News that they would not answer any questions regarding the work being done on the dam, and said that he would not provide any estimated completion date.
Courtney, when asked if he was refusing to answer the questions submitted by ConnectLocal.News regarding not only the schedule, but the reasons for the repairs and the safety of the dam, replied “yes.” The only information that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board was willing to provide on the dam was included in the press release provided by the county regarding the road closure in January, he said, and disconnected the phone call.
ConnectLocal. News contacted Thomas Woosley, Safe Dams Program Manager at the GA Department of Natural Resources, who was aware of the work being undertaken on the Lake Louse dam, but said that little information about the extent of the work, and no information on the projected schedule of work, was available.
“There are two categories of dams in Georgia, Category 1 dams are those where failure of the dam would poses a risk of the loss of life; category 2 dams, there is no risk of loss of life,” he said. “The Lake Louise dam is a category 2 dam, and only Category 1 dams are regulated, so there is no required information on work done on Category 2 dams.
The only information he had on the Lake Louse Dam work was that the “spillway pipe had issues," Woosley said.
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED TO GEORGIA BAPTIST MISSION BOARD THAT THEY DECLINED TO ANSWER:
What precipitated the decision to engage in the work now being done on the dam? Was there an incident indicating structural issues, or is this a scheduled maintenance effort?
Is the work being done on the dam a voluntary effort, or is it being required by any state or federal entity?
What, in a general level of detail, is being done to the dam? Completely rebuild? Simple repairs? Improvements? The county Adminstrator mentioned that the rating of the dam would be a higher rating (changing from a Category 2 dam to a Category 1 dam) once the current work was completed, can you address that topic?
What is the cost of the current work being undertaken, and is it completely footed by Georgia Baptist? Or are there components that are being funded by public funds?
Would there be a potential for Georgia Baptist to come to the decision that they cannot or will not undertake the expense to repair the dam, and if so, what would be the repercussions of that decision on the re-opening and operation of Lake Louise Road?
Is there a danger to neighboring property or citizens if there were to be a failure of the dam, or an unexpected breach during repair of the dam?
And lastly, is there any timeline for completion of the project that I can pass on to our readers to let them know when Lake Louise Road will be re-opened?
The Safe Dams Program (SDP) receives its legal authorization from OCGA§12-5-370 to 12-5-385 which is the Georgia Safe Dams Act. The Safe Dams Program is responsible for developing and maintaining an inventory of dams, classifying dams, and ensuring compliance of all regulated dams.
Only Category I dams are regulated. To be considered a Category I dam, the improper operation or failure would result in a probable loss of human life. The Georgia Safe Dams Act requires permits for these projects. The Safe Dams Program is also responsible for ordering enforcement actions be taken against owners who do not comply with the Act and Rules.
There are no regulatory requirements for a Category II dam. The Safe Dams Program re-inventories Category II dams at least once every 5 years. The re-inventory involves checking that the dam still exists and evaluating downstream to make sure the dam is properly classified. If modifications to the dam or changes in development downstream indicate the potential for probable loss of life, the dam may be reclassified Category I.
(Source: Georgia Environmental Protection Division)