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Stimulus money will help repair 2 Jackson County dams
About $1 million in matching funds needs to be raised
The plunge pool for Sandy Creek Dam 23 is seen. It will receive federal stimulus money to go toward repairs.

Two Jackson County dams have been selected to benefit from federal stimulus funds.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have named Sandy Creek Dams 15 and 23 as two of the six Georgia dams to receive federal stimulus funds to rehabilitate the "aging flood control structures."

Nationally, $45 million will be distributed in grant funding, with Georgia slated to receive a little more than $6.3 million. The bulk of Georgia’s funding will be used in Jackson County, with those two dams receiving more than $3.6 million.

As a condition of receiving the federal grants, recipients have to match the grant amount with 35 percent local funding. "We have a pretty substantial sum to come up with and under current economic conditions, I’m not sure that we can do that," said Darrell Hampton, Jackson County manager.

In order to receive the federal funding, Jackson County officials would have to come up with around $1 million.

"We hope to find a partner to help with the matching funds so that we can address these dams," Hampton said.

The goal of this rehabilitation program is to provide funding "toward the most cost-effective projects where there is the greatest risk of infrastructure failure and threat to life and property."

Both Jackson County dams are carry a Category I rating and are inspected annually by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

"(A Category I rating) means in the event these were to fail, it is probable that someone will lose their life," said Tom Woosley of the Georgia DNR Safe Dams Program.

"It does not mean the dam is going to fail, just if it did, for whatever reason, someone would likely die. Of course there will also be additional damages and environmental issues."

Although the Jackson County dams have been selected as a part of the federal rehabilitative program, Woosley said that barring any unusual events, it is unlikely that the dams will fail in the next few years.

The two dams are used primarily as flood-control structures.

Sandy Creek Dam 15 was built in 1962 on Big Sandy Creek near Commerce. Sandy Creek Dam 23 was constructed in 1963 on Hardeman Creek and is near Nicholson.

"The main issue with these dams is the spillway capacity; they do not have enough to meet our current standards," Woosley said. "The work proposed is to increase that capacity; (however) even as they sit today, they have quite a bit of capacity compared to many smaller or nonregulated dams."

Spillways are used to prevent a dam from overflowing. Both Jackson County dams have a primary, 30-inch, concrete pipe primary spillway and an emergency side channel spillway.

In addition to rehabilitating aging dams, the federal funding also is expected to boost local economies by creating jobs and supporting local businesses during the construction process.

Other states receiving federal funding for dam rehabilitation include Arkansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, New York, West Virginia and Kansas.

The largest grant for a single dam, $4.1 million, went to the Sallisaw Creek Dam 18 in Oklahoma.