Dried-up Brentwood Today Lake will likely become a wetland

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2014 

RALEIGH

— Two years after a dam breach left Brentwood Today Lake dry, Raleigh leaders are moving ahead with a $1 million plan to turn the lake into a stream and wetland area.

A city council committee made the recommendation last week after a two-decade tussle between Brentwood residents, city officials and the lake’s owners over who should be responsible for the ailing body of water.

Under the plan discussed last week, the city would take over ownership of the lake from SMADA Construction Company, which is no longer an existing business entity. The project would shore up stream channels through the old lake bed and remove the failed dam. It would stop sediment from flowing downstream into Beaman Lake, which the city owns and could be forced to dredge if sediment build-up continues.

“The stream restoration to reduce that silting and sedimentation is a real benefit,” public works director Carl Dawson said.

What’s at stake

City Councilman Eugene Weeks said he favors the plan, citing the reduced cost of $750,000 to $1 million. But Councilman John Odom thinks Raleigh should make good on a promise made in the 1990s to restore the lake to its former glory. He cast the lone vote against the stream plan.

“I think the restoration deal is a good option if we’re willing to go in and condemn that property to make it happen,” Odom said. “That’s what I’ve been fighting for since 1996.”

The original lake restoration plan secured $1.96 million in funding, but city officials required the 34 waterfront property owners agree to assume ongoing maintenance costs of the lake itself – estimated at $7,000 every decade or so to remove silt from the bottom. The property owners weren’t willing to take on the burden, and neither would the heirs of SMADA Construction Company. But Raleigh’s policy doesn’t allow it to take ownership of a lake without an exception from the council.

Odom said the city should consider the benefits of bringing the lake back to life. “Whether there’s recreation opportunities there, I don’t know that we’ve explored that the way we ought to,” he said.

But not all Brentwood residents want the lake back. Wayne Elliott, whose home borders the old lake, said the project would send dump trucks through his back yard, knocking out a fence and pine trees. “I would rather someone build an airport beside us,” he said. “Because of the potential noise problems, I will fight this in court.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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