Moore County board declines to join Woodlake dam fight

VASS TOWNSHIP, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Residents who live near the maligned Woodlake Dam experienced some more rough water on Tuesday after the Moore County Board Commissioners rejected a proposal to help save the lake.

The proposed resolution, submitted by the Restore Woodlake Committee, asked the board to join residents in their legal fight to fix the broken dam.

"As much as we would like to provide our county manager and county attorney, we're prohibited from doing that," Commissioner Catherine Graham said. "If we did that, than anytime any private entity would have a problem they would come to us and say 'We need the county attorney to give us legal advice.' "

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David Watterson, the chair of the Restore Woodlake Committee, welcomed the board's sympathy but vowed to press on.

"We do have a daunting task ahead of us, and I think and hope we are up to the challenge."

Woodlake Dam

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 chair Illya Steiner either pay to fix the dam - or pay to break down the dam.

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 in January. 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 last DSO, issued on November 17, mandated that the Woodlake must have had its engineers begin work on a temporary breach of the dam begin by December 8th and be completed by December 31, 2016. Additionally, the DSO gave the dam owners 91 days from the order's issue for engineers to submit complete plans for the repair of the dam.

According to the DSO, had the conditions not been met, the owners would face fines of up to $500 a day.

A spokesperson for the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) told ABC11 that Woodlake was given five days from December 8 to provide a written response to the DEQ with an update on their plans and work.

That never happened.

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