An act of God destroyed the Woodlake dam, but only after the hubris and inattention of man allowed it to degrade to the point of unsustainability.

Now, another act of man will allow a critically needed piece of infrastructure to be rebuilt in eastern Moore County.

The recently approved state budget includes millions of dollars for special projects around the state: museums, new parks, sidewalks, environmental assistance. For Moore County, that includes almost $10 million to fund repair of the Lake Surf dam, the centerpiece of Woodlake Country Club off N.C. 690 and a massive flood control project for this part of North Carolina.

In this age where everyone seems to be talking about spending money on “infrastructure,” there may be no more important investment the state can make locally.

“It’s the best news we’ve had in years,” said Charlie Jones, a longtime resident of Woodlake. “There are a fair number of steps involved in getting from a piece of paper in the legislature to water in the lake, but the lynchpin is obviously that funding.”

A Failed History

At 1,200 acres, Lake Surf was one of the largest manmade lakes in the state. While it provided years of recreation and leisurely lake life to residents in the gated community, it also offered benefits to property owners downstream: flood control protection.

But that protection grew suspect over the years. A successive series of private owners failed to comply with state orders to make mandatory repairs to the dam. In 2016, record rains of Hurricane Matthew eroded the dam to the point where the county ordered more than 100 families downstream to evacuate.

Fearing the dam could burst given its compromised state, and with ownership tangled up in a legal nightmare, the state breached the dam itself and drained the lake. Since then, the lake bed has become an overgrown swampy morass, the tax base in that area of Moore has taken a beating, and properties downstream have struggled with flood control problems.

While there were options to repairing the dam, none seemed feasible. A local bill approved a couple of years ago would have set up a special taxing district within Woodlake to fund the repair, but county commissioners were unwilling to move forward. And a privately funded reconstruction simply wasn’t going to happen, given a price that could still end up north of $10 million.

A Win for the Region

Some may criticize the expenditure as public dollars supporting a private interest, but that’s looking at the Woodlake issue too narrowly. Fixing the dam and enabling the refilling of Lake Surf will make several hundred property owners whole again, but it will also do a few other things. The big thing is that it will aid points east by restoring a massive flood control device, limiting downstream runoff from the successive series of heavy rains we’ve had in recent years.

“This is a good solution and a good allocation of federal monies by the state,” Woodlake owner Keith Allison said recently. “It’s good for North Carolina and good for the region.”

Indeed, the region is the big winner. A renewed Lake Surf will restore value to a section of Moore County real estate that has been stunted in recent years. Given its close proximity to Fort Bragg and direct commute to Fayetteville — and improvements the state has planned for N.C. 690 — further development is natural for that part of our county. And that means a higher tax base and more revenue.

“As representatives of Moore County, we are proud of the improvement this will bring to the lives of our citizens by bringing economic development and infrastructure projects to our area,” State Reps. Jamie Boles and Allen McNeill said in a statement acknowledging the dam funding and other local budget items.

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(1) comment

Barbara Misiaszek

Over the last several years the loss of real estate value has resulted in almost $500,000 of annual property tax money being lost to Moore County. The cost of providing services to residents hasn't gone down with these losses of value and County revenue. This is a big win for the County which can reasonably expect to begin to recover this lost revenue with no additional cost.

John Misiaszek

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