A full Lake Lanier has put the brakes on a major culvert repair project in West Hall.
Hall County government officials say the lake needs to drop to at least full pool, or 1,071 feet above sea level, before they can proceed with work on the project on Big Creek at McEver Road.
Lanier stood at 1,072.39 feet Thursday afternoon. The last time it was 1,071 feet or below was April 12.
“When we started the project, the lake was down at the bottom of the pipes and now it’s up near the top,” County Engineer Kevin McInturff said Thursday.
“Right now, it’s basically impossible to do. You would have to build little dams at either end of the pipes and pump out water,” he said.
The project will involve a lot of work when the county can get to it, but the good news for motorists is that the work won’t mean closing the road.
“They won’t even know we’re there,” McInturff said.
McEver is a busy two- and four-lane artery stretching from Gainesville to Buford, where it becomes Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. Oakwood is closing a stretch between Flowery Branch and H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway to replace a culvert that failed on Mud Creek after May 19 floods.
The Big Creek culverts — two that are side by side, each with 11-12 feet in diameter and about 100 feet in length — are between Gaines Ferry Road in Flowery Branch and Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway in Buford.
Big Creek runs from near Interstate 985 to McEver, where it empties into Lanier.
“The old pipes are very deteriorated,” McInturff said. “The bottoms are eaten out of them. There are huge holes in them.”
Hall County officials learned about the culvert failure through regular inspections it conducts of culverts throughout the county.
“The road’s OK; it’s not compromised,” McInturff said. “We had a geotechnical firm come and drill underneath the road and make sure there weren’t any voids under the road.”
Governments are required to keep track of, inspect and maintain culverts, or structures that are supposed to keep stormwater flowing unimpeded to major river basins — Chattahoochee or Oconee, in Hall County’s case.
Hall, Flowery Branch and Oakwood hold stormwater discharge permits under the Georgia Water Quality Control Act and the Federal Clean Water Act.
Culverts are structures serving as small bridges under roadways, but they can be any tunnel or a drain that carries a stream or drainage from one side to the other.
The Big Creek project involves “building new pipes inside the old pipes” and pumping in “really high-strength grout” in open spaces, McInturff said.
The project will cost $682,100, with funding coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program and the county’s special purpose local option sales tax program, said Dana Sikes of Hall County engineering.
When the work does start, it should take a couple of months to complete, depending on weather, McInturff said.