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Lower water level permits culvert project
Repair work began Tuesday on Big Creek at McEver Road
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Now that Lake Lanier is hovering around full pool, Hall County is moving forward on a major culvert repair project in West Hall.

Officials have said they needed the lake to drop to at least 1,071 feet above sea level before they can proceed on the work on Big Creek at McEver Road, near Buford city limits and Lake Lanier.

The lake now is in its designated period of winter full pool, or 1,070 feet. Summer full pool is 1,071 feet.

“We are hopeful that the contractor can resume work,” County Engineer Kevin McInturff said. “We are also closely monitoring the pipes, and (we) inspect them weekly.

The contractor, Missouri-based SAK Construction, restarted work on the $682,100 project Tuesday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “letting a fair amount of water out (of the lake) right now, so we’re hopeful it won’t rise anymore,” McInturff said.

The lake stood Tuesday morning at 1,071.36 feet, jumping to that level because of last week’s heavy rainfall. Before the deluge, Lanier was below 1,071 feet and dropping.

Rain is in the forecast through Sunday, with the highest likelihood tonight and Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Still, work should proceed “as long as (the level) stays close to 1,071,” McInturff said. “Over the summer, it was significantly over 1,071 feet.”

Lanier has been at or near full pool since April, thanks to a wet spring and summer, including 14 inches of rain in July.

The lake’s elevation reached as high as 1,073.67 on May 7 and was consistently at 1,072 feet or higher most of July and August, according to corps data.

The Big Creek culverts — two that are side by side, each with 11-12 feet in diameter and about 100 feet in length — lie under a strip of McEver that’s 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 has said. “The bottoms are eaten out of them. There are huge holes in them.”

Hall officials learned about the culvert failure through regular inspections they conduct of culverts throughout the county.

The road hasn’t been affected by the deterioration.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the pipe,” McInturff said. “We’ve even had (the road) bored to check the subgrade, and there were no major voids.”

Because of this year’s heavy rain, culvert failures in other parts of the county — including one farther north on McEver in Oakwood — did cause road damage and required officials to close roads and set up detours. But the Big Creek project won’t require closing McEver Road, McInturff said.

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’s funding comes from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program and the county’s special purpose local option sales tax program, officials have said.

Barring any changes in weather and lake levels jumping again, the project could be finished in late February, McInturff said.

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