Laurel Lakes neighbors hope to see clearer with cleanup effort -- Gazette.Net







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Donald Williford said he hasn’t seen some of his neighbors at Laurel Lakes in years, the result of deteriorating conditions to the once-beautiful area.

“You used to be able to catch fish there, and ducks would come out every morning,” said Williford, who has lived on the north side of the lakes since 1991, adding that there’s no fishing at the lake and ducks haven’t come by in years.

Williford and about 10 other nearby residents and city officials turned out Nov. 14 to hear an update on a project by county Department of Environmental Resources officials.

The county is finalizing plans to dredge the upper lake, removing an estimated 15,000 cubic yards of sediment that has plugged it up, said DER engineer and project manager Joanna M. Smith.

Dredging is the excavation of materials at least partially underwater, removing sediment for disposal at another location, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

Smith said DER is in the permitting phase of the project, which is expected to be put out to bid in the spring.

“If everything goes well between the bid date and the open bid, we expect construction to hopefully begin July 2014,” Smith said, adding that construction would take three to six months.

Smith said much of the vegetation growing out of control in and around the lake will be removed, affording viewers a better look at the lake, which should look clearer and provide a better habitat for fish and other wildlife.

The two lakes comprising Laurel Lakes were created in the 1980s. The upper lake is intended to capture runoff from nearby streams before it runs into the lower lake, Smith said.

“It’s doing its job,” she said.

Smith said there always will be sediment running into the lake, but it should be lessened following a 2011 project to stabilize the eroding banks of the Bear Branch stream, which feeds into the upper lake.

Frank Galasi, DER’s stormwater management section head, said the lake should be dredged about once every 10 years to clear out sediment deposits. The last time the upper lake was dredged was in 1996, Galasi said.

“We were all excited when they were doing it, but it [the sediment] all came back,” said Lester Louis, who has lived south of the lake since 1989. “It didn’t take long at all, and now it’s gotten much worse.”

The 1996 dredging removed an estimated 7,900 cubic yards of sediment, nearly half of the amount planned to be removed this time around.

“It’s been 17 years, and so now the trees have grown up in the sediment [in the lake], and the trees are now this big around,” Williford said, holding his hands approximately one foot apart.

Smith said $200,000 has been budgeted for planning and design, and $1.5 million for the dredging of the lake itself.