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County erosion study leaves cove woes unresolved

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Despite years of public claims from residents near Burton Creek, findings of a study on erosion in the area appear to show nothing unusual about sediment accumulation in nearby Lake Norman coves.

The lake-bottom core-sampling project, conducted by S&ME of Charlotte, tested five coves of Lake Norman near the Burton Creek area. The county had requested the study to determine whether any action needed to be taken to manage the erosion; results were presented to county commissioners during their meeting Monday night.

The project found that some of the coves “have been subject over the years to a succession of varying sedimentation impacts, though none of the impacts seem to have been unusually distinct or significant compared to the others,” as stated in the report’s summary and conclusion.

“S&ME does not believe there is a need for prescribed sedimentation mitigation efforts or an intensive sedimentation monitoring program in any of the project study coves,” the report stated.

Michael Wolfe, CSE, natural resources senior consultant for S&ME, presented the findings to commissioners, noting that he found “nothing of profound consequence” in the samplings.

Nonetheless, he did say that two of the coves tested, labeled coves three and four in the study, have become shallower than they were, an anticipated consequence of the larger stream drainage basins of those coves compared to the others.

This has resulted in a greater potential for sediment buildup and “repeated layers of organics,” Wolfe said, adding that those coves receive a regular feed of stormwater discharge.

Though he referred to this as the “natural order of things,” the report does suggest that the county may want to implement some sort of annual monitoring for coves three and four.

Rudy Bauer, a resident of Blades Trail in Denver who has lived on cove four since 2001, has spoken frequently during the public-comments portion of commission meetings asking for something to be done regarding the sedimentation.

In his pleas, he has also brought along bottles of water from his cove to demonstrate its discoloration from what he called “two feet of muck.”

Wolfe said the discoloration is from new sediments depositing in the water and that they will ultimately become more grayish in color as they age. He also stressed the importance of noting the difference between the water’s color and its actual texture.

County Manager George Wood said the information from the study will have to be taken into account when the land is eventually developed.

The area around Burton Creek itself is a failed development in which the limited liability corporation (LLC) overseeing the project was dissolved, leaving behind acreage in an unstable condition.

The property has been a matter of contention between the county, owners and nearby residents, particularly over the threat of erosion affecting the buildup of silt in adjacent coves.

Despite some efforts to bring stormwater runoff in the area under control, Bauer and others have insisted that abnormal silt buildups in their coves continue. Some have suggested, however, that the silting is not related to the Burton Creek property, but to “natural” processes in the manmade Lake Norman.

The study does not appear to completely answer that question for coves three and four, leaving room for further observation and debate.

Bauer and others have previously asked for the county to take a more active role in protecting their property against silt build-up.

In other board action at Monday’s meeting:

  • Commissioners unanimously approved conditional-use permits for the Laboratory Mill on Southfork Road in Lincolnton to operate as an events venue and for Strata Solar to establish a solar power generation facility at 5531 W. N.C. 27 in North Brook Township.
  • Commissioners delayed taking action on a resolution amending the county’s fire prevention code, fees and penalties schedule. Commissioner George Arena said he did not believe they were given enough time to look over the resolution, which was sent to commissioners for review on Friday. As such, the board plans to vote on the resolution at its July 16 meeting.
  • Commissioners voted 4-1, with commissioner Carrol Mitchem in opposition, on the revised ordinance requiring special events and mass gatherings to obtain permits. As the Times-News previously reported, state law requires unanimous approval upon first reading for the ordinance to be enacted. However, when the ordinance is presented again for a second reading before commissioners at their July meeting, only a majority vote will be required for approval.

A closed session was conducted, though no action was taken.

 

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