Millions of dollars worth of work is about to begin at the Lake Waco dam, including repairs to a 300-foot-long section of earth that slid downhill with heavy rains this spring.
Crews should start next week working on the damaged dam section, which will be stabilized with a lime mixture, lake manager Heath McLane said. The project to repair and stabilize the slide will cost about $1 million, which is coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over and above the lake’s normal operation budget.
But the local lake office will have to use its operating budget to do another repair of an earthen section of channel just downstream of the spillway that sloughed off in December. Also, McLane said a couple of million dollars of maintenance work to the gates themselves will be put out for bid soon.
“It’s a 50-year-old structure,” he said. “We do maintenance all the time. This just happened to be a bigger dollar figure this year.”
McLane said none of the problems being corrected pose an immediate safety threat to the dam.
The timeframe for the repairs hasn’t been firmed up yet, because some of the projects will run concurrently, he said. But the dam trail, which has been closed since spring, probably won’t reopen for at least a few months, he said.
“We just don’t want the public in an area where heavy equipment is running,” McLane said.
Congressman Bill Flores toured the lake in June after heavy rains caused the slide on the downstream side of the dam and flooding caused the upstream slide. Flores said at the time he would ensure Corps money would be available for the dam safety repairs and also expressed confidence that flood damage to parks around the lake could be repaired.
So far, repairs to the recreational facilities around the lake have come slowly, as the local Corps staff of seven works on cleanup. Picnic pavilions and campsites, especially at Airport Park and Airport Beach, were wrecked by water that was 22.5 feet above normal, and some roads through those parks may have to be rebuilt.
Some parks around the lake remain closed, but Airport Park and Flat Rock boat ramps have reopened, along with Lacy Point natural area, Speegleville Park and Midway Park.
“The parks have been full, and people are really excited to get back on the lake,” McLane said. “I would be more excited if I could get some more parks open.”