Ledbetter Lake property owners get legislative lift

 

A Google Map aerial image of the Ledbetter Lake area.

A Google Map aerial image of the Ledbetter Lake area.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

A House bill that allows residents to pay a fee to help fund repairs to Ledbetter Lake Dam is waiting only on a signature by Gov. Pat McCrory.

House Bill 1033, sponsored by Rep. Ken Goodman and co-sponsored by Rep. Charles Graham and Rep. Garland Pierce, authorizes Richmond County government to impose a special assessment that ultimately will pay for residents’ ability to restore the drained Ledbetter Lake, on Hitchcock Creek, and once again have lakefront properties and all the quality-of-life improvements that come with such a luxury.

Rep. Ken Goodman

Rep. Ken Goodman

This image and projection of work to repair the Ledbetter Dam is on file with the application with various state agencies.

This image and projection of work to repair the Ledbetter Dam is on file with the application with various state agencies.

The bill limits any assessment, which must be approved by the Richmond County commissioners, to specific property owners “against property that is contiguous to a lake, and benefits from access to the same lake, for the purpose of repairing the dam of that lake. The provisions of this subsection only apply to a privately owned dam formerly used for textile mill purposes, forming a lake between 225 and 325 acres in area.”

The repairs are to cost an estimated $2.3 million. A group of residents, led by Frank Parker, formed Ledbetter Lake Dam Management Inc. and requested legislative assistance via the Richmond County Board of Commissioners earlier this year.

The third reading of the House bill was approved Thursday with a 40-4 vote. It is cross filed in the Senate as SB 766. Sen. Gene McLaurin, sponsor, said it was originally thought the bill could be a local bill, but due to a few technicalities it had to be a statewide bill. The Senate version was co-sponsored by Sen. Gladys A. Robinson. Second and third readings were approved earlier this week.

North Carolina dam safety inspectors examined Ledbetter Dam in April and July 2012 and issued a Notice of Deficiency on July 20, 2012, that identified several problems and maintenance issues that could result in dam failure during high flow events or seismic activity. Reported problems include cracks and leaks on the left side of the spillway, concrete deterioration, seepage through the embankment, stability of the embankment and much more. The notice instructed the owner to prepare and emergency action plan and to draw down the lake at least 5 feet until permanent repairs are completed.

Sen. Gene McLaurin

Sen. Gene McLaurin

The lake, which was buil was drawn down to the lowermost gate to remove accumulated logs and debris in 2013.

In April 2013, Parker formed Ledbetter Lake Dam Management Inc. to see the dam repaired and refilled. The new entity purchased the dam for $1. The issue impacts 136 properties that touch the lake. A petition presented to county officials approximately three months ago had garnered 54 percent of affected landowners in support of the assessment. Those landowners comprised 63 percent of the affected properties.

The assessment will be added onto a property owner’s annual tax bill. The amount of the fee would be based on the total cost of dam repairs.

According to a December 2013 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Gerald Pottern, a senior biologist with Robert J. Goldstein and Associates Inc., a Raleigh-based environmental consultation firm, the project will include “the following much-needed structural and safety improvements to the dam:

* demolish the deteriorated upper portion of the primary spillway, outlet gates, training walls, powerhouse and penstock;
* rebuild the primary spillway at the existing crest elevation, encasing it in a concrete monolith and widening the base to improve the structural stability;
* rebuild the outlet works and non-overflow dam section (left abutment) between the primary spillway and the mill building, installing new gates and controls;
* rebuild the earth embankment and training wall between the primary spillway and Ledbetter Road (right abutment) with a drain system to capture and convey seepage.

Rep. Garland Pierce

Rep. Garland Pierce

The repair project has been designed by Schnabel Engineering of Greensboro. Pottern noted that the State Historic Preservation Office indicating the Ledbetter Manufacturing Company mill building “might be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. However, the deteriorated condition of Ledbetter Dam would make it a non-contributing element if the mill is proposed for NRHP listing. SHPO concurs that the proposed dam repair will have no effect on historic properties.”

It’s unclear how soon repairs could get underway once McCrory signs the bill, as expected.

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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  • Svea

    Ken Goodman is my hero. 🙂

    • william english

      Is that the same person who owned the furniture store in downtown Rockingham, that closed his parking lot AFTER he closed his store, across the street from the Richmond County Courthouse that has no parking lot?
      What harm would have came from allowing the public to park there? Try being handicapped and walk around the courthouse.

    • http://peedeepost.com Trucker

      “Box Car Willie” would be proud.

  • Don Hammann

    I agree with this decision but in all fairness the public should also be granted access to the lake.

  • william english

    I agree that there should be public access to the lake,
    but every linear foot of that lakefront has been dilegently denied to the public for years. In the late 1980’s the lake was drained and when refilled…was restocked by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. In other words, the public payed for restocking a lake that has been absolutely placed off limits to the general public. The only access was if you were fortunate enough to know someone that owned a portion of the lakefront and you were invited to use their property. I believe there is an inequity there. The lake is a great resource to the county and should he made available to everyone…not just a privileged few.

    • Don Hammann

      “No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or possessing
      the frontage or lands of navigable water in this State, shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose,
      nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation of such water; and the
      Legislature shall enact such laws as will give the most liberal
      construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters
      of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof.”

      I would like to see the N.C. Wildlife Commission restore the public boat ramp that USED to be beside the bridge.
      Also anyone paddling upsteam Hitchcock creek has every legal right guaranteed by Federal law to portage around Ledbetter dam.

      • Sassy

        Yes, anyone has every legal right to navigate Hitchcock creek and around Ledbetter dam. Should the governor sign House Bill 1033, Ledbetter Lake property owners and contiguous land owners will be taxed for the repairs of the dam which thereby the lake and property becomes private property. I agree with this as I don’t own property on and contiguous to Ledbetter Lake and therefore shouldn’t have to pay taxes on property that I don’t own.

        • Don Hammann

          Sassy, I have a problem with your statement “thereby the lake and property becomes private property” NC taxpayer funds should not be used to finance a project that excludes the public. Put in a public boat ramp and everyone will be happy.

          • Sassy

            Don, That’s fine, but House Bill 1033 only addresses dam repairs and those responsible for the repairs. A public boat ramp would be nice, but who do propose pay for the boat ramp….Ledbetter Lake property owners or tax payers?

          • Don Hammann

            Why not let the taxpayers fund a boat ramp through the NC department of wildlife or http://ncpaf.com/? After all we as taxpayers are funding 2 million dollars to repair a dam. I know this money will be paid back over time in property assessments but the taxpayers will be fronting the money.
            N.C. Has over 200 public boat ramps. This would be a strong asset to Richmond county in the form of tourism and recruiting new industry. I am not against the dam repair as I would love to see the lake restored. If it is not repaired soon and when the lake bed turns into a wetland/marsh it will be impossible to get permits to flood it.
            I live a mile from the lake and would like to have access to it. I own a house on Tillery and I laugh at the idea of how absurd it would be if that lake was denied public access by the homeowners.

  • william english

    The N.C.Wildlife resources commision constructs and maintains access points for the public throughout the state of North Carolina, several hundred of them, often inside the city limits of municipalities. Its my opinion that the local landowners are under the impression that by making the lake inaccssable to the public it somehow enhances the value of their property by exclusivity. In my opinion this is the exact oppisite of what would happen. I believe that before this legislation is passed, and as a condition of the law to move forward, that there should be plans made for public access in at least two places on the lake. It is too good of a resource to be denied access to the general public.

    • Don Hammann

      You are correct William. NC wildlife built a ramp beside Ledbetter bridge in the sixties but it was removed about 10 years later….does anyone know why?

      • Denise Myers

        I remember the ramp beside Ledbetter Bridge. There was also a pier built on that same piece of land between the bridge and the damn. It was a recreational area for the public.
        Would not the state own that particular piece of land – the Department of Transportation?

  • william english

    Remember that boat ramp…but I dont know who built it. I do know it was very well used..and also very poorly maintained. Like you mentioned, it disappeared some time ago. About the same time a deep ditch was dug along the top of the dam to prevent people from accessing the lake from the road.

  • Bud

    The state is not interested in providing public access to the lake. The Wildlife people have been approached several times over the years, have looked at it, and have replied in the negative. The ramp & pier previously referred to were not installed by the Wildlife, but by Ledbetter Mfg for employee use. They were removed because of the liability incurred by the company.

    • Don Hammann

      Regardless of the past kudos to Ken Goodman for supporting the restoration of the lake. Maybe he can also put a little influence on the county and state for public access. This could be a win-win for everyone.

  • Don Hammann

    I understand the concerns of the residents who have a vested interest in their future. Public access without restrictions would be disruptive along with being a safety concern. The lake is too small to open it up to ski boats or maybe even all motorized boats. HOWEVER, a small ramp for canoe or kayak access along with a portage path around the dam would open up the lake for recreation without being disruptive. In fact this could be an extension to the Hitchcok blue trail. Imagine being able to paddle from Ledbetter to the Pee Dee river!

  • http://yahoo rick

    As to the question of what happened to the boat ramp at Ledbetter lake-It was rendered useless by digging a large ditch and building an embankment. This work I believe was done by Pete Ussery, a property owner on the lake. At this time the city of Rockingham was paying maintenance on the Dam as a “backup water reservoir”. The city continued to pay for this dam for many years after the public was “closed off” from the lake. I remember hearing rumors that landowners did not want the lake public, but wanted the City of Rockingham to continue to pay for the dam maintenance. As far as I know Ussery recieved permission from no one to destroy the boat ramp. Perhaps the Wildlife Resources Commision would have some further information?

  • Ann

    What happen to “Safety First.” I can foresee accidents waiting to happen with an over flow of marine vehicles on a busy summer week-end. Big verses small, fast verses slow and poor water skier. After someone gets hurt are we going to regret a bad decision?? Who is going to direct the traffic??

  • will english

    @Ann….so someone MIGHT get hurt using the lake.. let’s make it unavailable to the public for another 30 or so years because someone may get hurt. I’ve got news for you…people get hurt every day outdoors…and it doesn’t take a lake suddenly becoming available after DECADES to give them the oppertunity. No…that lake needs to be open to the general public and I’m not talking in years either…in just months. If people abuse the privilege of using the lake, let the authority’s take care of the problem..that’s what they are there for.This has dragged on forever…some people’s entire lifetime came..and went and they never even had the oppertunity to enjoy that beautiful resourse.

  • rick

    Ann are you a property owner at Ledbetter? Have you lived there long enough to have enjoyed the city of Rockingham paying the maintenance costs on the dam for many, many years? The Wildlife resources commision already patrols the lake thanks to some land owner out there. Seems to me if it was private, the Wildlife Resources Commision would have no business there. Can anyone clarify this? Besides the Ledbetters who used to live here would have wanted it to stay public Im sure. They were in declining health when the “few” greedy landowners wanted to privatize it, and took it on their own to do so. That said, they would have also been opposed to their kin people raping the landscape on Ledbetter Rd. and Richmond Rd. extension. What a terrible waste of what was once beautiful woods. A true crime of nature. Shame on them. They would have made more selling the land with creek frontage, it just would have taken longer. Back to the lake-it has been some 20 years since the privatization took place. I would like to see someone buy some land and put in a Marina with dock storage, boat landing and gas. What could the land owners do then? Zoning may or may not protect them. Let’s keep it Ledbetter Lake and not Lake Ledbeter!

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