North Carolina Town Files $10M Suit Over 2010 Dam Breach

May 29, 2013

The town of Hope Mills, N.C. is suing to get $10 million to repair a dam that failed more than three years ago.

It was the second dam to fail and empty the lake by the town. The first dam was breached in May 2003 when up to 8 inches of rain fell in a short time. Hope Mills had the dam rebuilt and the lake filled again in June 2009, The Fayetteville Observer reported.

But residents reported the water level stayed low and they felt vibrations. A year later, a hole formed in vinyl sheeting at the foot of the dam and the lake emptied again. No one was hurt in either breach.

Hope Mills sued the designers and builders of the dam – Crowder Construction, McKim and Creed, Morrison Engineers, AMEC Environment and Infrastructure, Mosher Engineering, Timothy LaBounty and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. – to get money to repair the structure. Town Council members have also discussed just building a new dam on the site.

In motions to dismiss the suit, the defendants defended their work and said all the work was inspected and approved by the town.

The second dam failure was quite unusual. A safety engineer for the state can’t recall any dam this size failing in this way.

“I can recall maybe one case back the first time I was here, but it was a very small dam,” said Steve McEvoy, who was a state dam safety engineer from 1976 to 1988 and again since September 2008.

Residents of Hope Mills said the town has lost some of its character without the lake. The first dam was built nearly 100 years ago for a local textile mill that turned it over to the town in 1984. People swam, fished and even water skied on the lake. The town held Christmas and Independence Day celebrations on its shores.

“People courted there, they got married there, they got baptized there,” said Eddie Dees, who successfully ran for mayor in 2005 by promising to rebuild the first dam that was breached. “Even when the mill gave the lake to the town, there was a stipulation that any descendants of a mill worker would always be able to use the lake for fishing and swimming.”

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