dam break

The dam slowly eroded away Monday from a large influx of water over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Beyond Your Eyes Aerial Photography/Wendell Lee

Heavy rains that started over the weekend saturated the ground and contributed to a partial collapse of the dam on the southeastern end of the Lakeview Golf Club lake here. The problem reportedly began around mid-day Monday, according to nearby residents.

This was the second time the dam has collapsed at the local lake. The first occurred in 1979. There were no reports of injury or serious property damage at that time.

Police and emergency management officials were alerted around 6 p.m. Monday as water began to erode the area around the lake’s spillway and drain pipe. Officials estimated, at its peak, the lake was draining at the rate of over 40,000 gallons per minute. Capacity of the 40-acre lake is estimated at roughly 172 million gallons. The deluge of water from the rain, combined with the soaked ground, served to increase erosion of the lake’s wall that, at the dam, was roughly 30 feet wide. A hole roughly 20 feet deep, or more, had been gouged into the dam by late Monday night and officials worried the remaining wall would give way in a complete collapse. That scenario hadn’t occurred as of Tuesday morning.

“The initial concern was that, if the dam wall collapsed completely, the breach could have created a rush of water approximately eight feet high, according to the experts we consulted at EPD,” says Blackshear Police Chief Chris Wright.

It was unknown how far water could spread at a depth that could endanger life or property but officials were exercising caution by going door-to-door, alerting residents downstream of the area. The longer the dam continued to leak, without giving way, the less danger involved, they said.

Fortunately, as of 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the wall of the dam was still slowly eroding, reducing the out-flow as the lake slowly drained. Portions of the lake near College Avenue were already near empty as a significant pool of water remained at the southeastern end. Officials estimate the lake will continue to drain until at least late Tuesday night, possibly into Wednesday.

No injuries or reports of significant property damage were reported as of press time Tuesday morning.

The Georgia Department of Transportation closed Highway 121 South at midnight Monday night to prevent traffic from crossing at the bridge near Fox Trail Road where the main thrust of the water was expected to pass. The highway re-opened to traffic at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Lakeview Golf Club president, Tommy Pritchard, was at the club early Tuesday, assessing the damage.

“It’s too early to know yet what the impact of this will be,” said Pritchard.