Rockdale County’s Innovative Approach to Rehabilitating an Aging Dam
Cribb, Steven J.
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Rockdale County, located just east of metro Atlanta, faced a potential problem with a privately owned farm pond in the middle of a commercial corridor when the State’s Safe Dams Program classified the earthen embankment as a high hazard structure and required upgrades to meet current safety standards. However, rather than burying its head in the sand and allowing the property owners to face the problems alone, Rockdale County responded with an innovative solution in the form of Regional Storm Water Detention. The approximate thirty-foot high dam was constructed in the 1950’s. The lake formed by the dam encompasses about five acres and the surrounding highly-developed, urban watershed is roughly 140 acres. The lake is situated between a State highway and a major urban arterial road with heavy commercial development to the north, east, and west. Residential communities have become established south of the dam leading to the State’s classification of the dam as a high hazard structure. Rather than facing a liability, Rockdale County seized an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the neighboring community. By acquiring the property and embarking on an effort to create a Regional Storm Water Detention Pond, the County found a way to rehabilitate the dam, improve water quality, reduce traffic congestion, potentially improve air quality, create an aesthetic recreational park for community gathering and educational opportunities, and also promote further development. In addition, Rockdale County found funding in the form of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grant to help achieve these goals. This paper describes Rockdale County’s multifaceted solution to the problems presented by the aging dam. It highlights aspects of the Regional Storm Water Detention Project, including funding mechanisms, the investigation and rehabilitation of the dam, overall strategies for improving water quality, and other related aspects of the project.