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Lake Knickerbocker dam improvements coming soon
Gainesville officials said Thursday that they are prepared to take some initial steps to ensure the life of Lake Knickerbocker and its dam.

Many may think it’s a dam shame what has happened over the years to Lake Knickerbocker, which backs up to the Chattahoochee Golf Course north of downtown Gainesville.

The earthen dam that spans East Lake Drive, built in the early 1950s and separating Knickerbocker from Lake Lanier, is feared unstable by those who live in the area.

And a buildup of silt, estimated at 32,000 cubic yards in a survey completed about seven or eight years ago, has muddied the waters, cut off inlets and become something of an eyesore.

Gainesville officials said Thursday that they are prepared to take some initial steps to ensure the life of the lake and dam going forward.

The focus on dam maintenance comes as Gainesville and Hall officials search for funding to stop the flow of silt into Knickerbocker and dredge the estimated four- to five-foot layer spread across the bottom of the 45-acre lake.

Residents have complained for years about silt pouring into the lake as a result of inadequate drainage infrastructure and the emergence of new development in the area.

Previously, some city and county officials had said dredging the lake and improving the integrity of the dam should go hand in hand.

But dredging alone could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there appears to be no appetite to tackle that challenge among city officials.

It would likely take grant funding from federal and state environmental agencies to get this done.

In the meantime, city officials plan to contract with Schnabel Engineering, based in Alpharetta, for $66,500, plus another $15,000 for legal fees, staff salaries and other unknown project costs, to begin developing a maintenance plan for the dam.

“(Schnabel) will prepare design documents,” Department of Water Resources Director Kelly Randall said. “The actual construction work will be bid” later.

Likely improvements include building headwalls, reducing flow and debris through the pipe spillway, and developing a three-phase erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan.

The firm will also provide details for the proper removal of trees, stumps, roots and other vegetation from both the upstream and downstream slopes of the dam.

Gainesville officials said East Lake Drive will be closed frequently during the day while the improvements take place. It is unclear when the work will begin.

“It’s something we’re going to have to do,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

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