Hundreds of Woodlake residents meet over maligned dam

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Residents poured in to discuss Woodlake Dam.

Residents who live near the maligned Woodlake Dam gathered Monday night as the community anxiously waits for a resolution while repair plans remain stuck in the mud.

The overflow crowd of more than 300 listened intently to a presentation from the newly-formed Restore Woodlake Committee.

"I was really pleased about the size of the crowd, that made me happy," resident Christine Larkin told ABC11. "This was once a really amazing community and it could still be that way."

After months of reporting by the ABC11 I-Team, the Attorney General's Office finally filed a court injunction against the development's German ownership team after years of negligence led to the dam's demise. The injunction, filed January 27, asks the court to demand Woodlake LLC and its chairman, Illya Steiner, either pay to fix the dam - or pay to break down the dam.

"We've reached a certain level of despair and desperation and looking at the trajectory of how things have gone, this is getting concerning to us, the outcome is completely unknown, and the stakes are really high," said David Watterson of the Restore Woodlake Committee.

Steiner has 30 days from the injunction's filing to submit a written response to the court.

The move follows nearly two months of inaction on the part of Steiner and the local manager at Woodlake, Julie Watson.

Geosyntec, an international firm with field offices in Raleigh, was originally hired by Steiner to work closely with state officials to fix the maligned dam that nearly failed during Hurricane Matthew. The heroic efforts of the National Guard to sandbag the dam and save hundreds of homes downstream was one of the lasting images from the historic storm.

The firm, however, cut ties with Woodlake earlier this month. Documents obtained by the ABC11 I-Team show Steiner owed Geosyntec more than $270,000.

Now months after Hurricane Matthew, the dam remains broken, fully empowering the state to enforce its many dam safety orders and citations issued to Woodlake during the past several years.

The Woodlake owner and managers have ignored repeated requests for comment.

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