Officials manage spillways as lake levels rise

Officials manage spillways as lake levels rise


by DIANA RUGG / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @DianaRuggwcnc

Posted on July 7, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Updated Sunday, Jul 7 at 9:20 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lake Drive and its neighbor, Riverside Drive, are living up to their name -- again.

Water crept up the back yards of houses on both streets just below the Mountain Island Lake spillway Saturday, covering docks and worrying homeowners who watched it rise.

"I've been through six… this will be seven," said Tommy Daniel of the floods.

His dock was two inches under water.  The bands he invited to play a benefit concert couldn't come.  The concert would have benefitted a neighbor who lost his home in the last flood here -- in May.

And Daniel had to worry about his own stuff too.

"This morning was a headache trying to get everything moved out," said Daniel. "The cars moved, getting prepared for a flood, not knowing if it was coming or not."

"Not knowing" is what bothers Daniel the most. Not knowing how high the lake will go, or if enough water will be let out of the Lake Wylie dam below them to keep their homes from flooding.

He said Duke Energy, which controls lake levels, doesn't do enough to tell neighbors their plan for the lakes.

"Everyone up and down the street kinda wondering why they're not moving it," said Daniel.

Duke Energy spokesman Lisa Hoffmann said Duke officials are watching lake levels closely following this week's heavy rains, and keeping an eye on the rain that is in the forecast.

Hoffmann said Duke is letting the same amount of water into Mountain Island Lake from Lake Norman, as is flowing out of it from the Mountain Island spillway.

Cowans Ford Dam separates Lake Norman from Mountain Island Lake. 

Saturday evening, Duke Energy's website showed Lake Norman just six inches below "full pond" -- the top of the dam -- and Mountain Island Lake two and a half feet over it.

Duke can control the water flow rate from the Cowans Ford Dam, but not the Mountain Island spillway, said Hoffmann.

Duke can also control water flow out of Lake Wylie, and Hoffmann said there is one gate open on the Lake Wylie dam.  Duke will consider letting water out further downstream on Sunday.

High water levels on Lake Norman prompted the Lake Norman Marine Commission to warn boaters about floating debris and other high-water problems.

"That's a dock that's totally failed, underwater," said LNMC Executive Director Ron Schoultz, pointing to evidence of the water levels.

Water rose so high that some boats couldn't leave the lake in front of Lake Norman Marina because there wasn't enough clearance under a nearby bridge.

Some boaters had to duck to go under the NC 150 bridge nearby. 

Schoultz said it's common for debris to collect in the lake after storms, and be a hazard to boaters or water-skiers.

Higher water levels also mean wakes are more likely to overtop seawalls along the lake and erode them, causing to them to collapse. Losing a seawall is bad for property owners, said Schoultz.

"It keeps your property from going into the lake," he said, "because once it's in the lake, you can't reclaim it."