W. Va. Dam Failure Could Flood Lincoln County Community

April 19, 2007

West Virginia environmental officials are working to breach a failing earthen dam that threatened to flood a small Lincoln County community following heavy weekend rains.

Lee’s Fishing Lake dam could be breached later this week, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Jessica Greathouse said Tuesday. First, however, the agency must contact the dam’s owner.

The dam is owned by the heirs of the original owner, but DEP is trying to find the executor of his estate or an attorney. The National Inventory of Dams lists the owner as Robert Lee Johnston.

“Nothing’s ever easy,” Greathouse said.

Heavy rains over the weekend prompted officials to worry the dam could fail under the pressure of the extra water in the lake. More than a hundred residents living downstream were ordered to leave their houses April 15. They were allowed return home the next morning after emergency crews used pumps to reduce the lake’s level by six feet.

“It’ll be breached,” Greathouse said. “It’ll probably be within the week.”

Lee’s Fishing Lake was built to dam up Mahoney Creek in 1963, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams. The inventory says the 211-foot-long structure has a high potential for hazard downstream.

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