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$971,000 added for Wilde Lake project


The Columbia Council last night added $971,000 to the Columbia Association's 1993-94 capital budget to repair Wilde Lake Dam and dredge the lake -- a project that has nearly tripled in cost since it was originally approved.

Council members agreed that they had little choice but to approve the additional appropriation because state dam-safety standards require more extensive repairs and stabilizing procedures than was first expected.

The expanded reconstruction project will also require lake waters to be drawn down for eight to 10 weeks, rather than two to three weeks, thus allowing the association to broaden the scope of the dredging project at an additional cost.

The council agreed that sediment that has accumulated in the lake as the area developed should be cleaned out while the opportunity exists in order to avoid additional dredging in

the near future.

Council member Norma Rose of Wilde Lake Village expressed reservations. "I think everyone would be more comfortable spending all this money if we thought we had more than a semipermanent solution," she said.

In March, the council approved $520,000 for the dam repair and dredging for fiscal 1994, which ends April 30.

Costs escalated after state engineers, noting that the 26-year-old concrete dam's ability to withstand pressure is "significantly lower" than the strength assumed in the original design, requested the association to further investigate safety aspects.

Association engineers found structural deficiencies and determined that the entire uppermost tier of the dam needed to be replaced.

They also determined that the dam would require nearly 80 anchoring pins, rather than 20, for stability. The pins are to be drilled into bedrock to make the dam more sturdy.

Additional costs for repairs, dredging and associated expenses increased the total cost to nearly $1.4 million.

The council also approved $175,000 to repair the Tidesfall retaining wall, an option that could be accomplished at less cost while the man-made lake is drawn down.

The council decided to save $70,000 by not dredging in "noncritical areas" determined by the engineer, bringing the total cost down with an additional allocation of $971,000.

Pam Mack, association community relations director, said that the capital budget, consisting of borrowed money, is "fluid" and that the additional appropriation will require shifting priorities.

Council member Mike Rethman of Hickory Ridge Village asked whether there were any options to the costly dam repairs.

"I realize there's one option -- to do away with the dam, and return [Wilde Lake] to a stream, but that's probably unacceptable," he said.

Council member David Berson, an economist from River Hill Village, estimated that interest expenses for the project would be $85,000 annually, assuming 15 years of payments.

Mr. Rethman questioned the need to build a road in the lake for trucks to carry sediment out more efficiently without much disturbance to surrounding neighborhoods.

Association officials said the haul road was an important component.

Several council members sought assurances that adequate safety provisions would be established.

Work is expected to start early next year and run through May.

The council acts as the board of directors for the association, which manages the unincorporated community's recreational facilities, social programs, parks, lakes and open space areas.

The association has a $9.4 million capital budget for fiscal 1994, including $5.2 million for a new golf course.

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