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March 7, 2013

Officials address rumors, water quality at Duck River advisory meeting

Have construction problems derailed work on the Ruck River dam? Are officials planning to build a golf course surrounding the new lake once the dam is complete?

No and no, according to city officials, who spent part of a Wednesday meeting with the Duck River Advisory board addressing rumors and speculation that have surrounded the project for months.

Officials say the project is on track and on-budget since ramping up last year, but it hasn’t stopped message board rumors and whispers of hidden agendas from circulating across the county.

One rumor being circulated is that the city is planning to eventually build a golf course or hotel resort in the watershed, using property purchased under the Army Corps. of Engineers permit to construct the dam.

The City of Cullman via the utilities board is building a 640-acre lake with a 32-million-gallon-per-day capacity in northeast Cullman, and has purchased approximately 83 parcels for a total of 1,121 acres in the watershed for the project.

A component of the federal dam permit requires the utilities board to establish restrictive covenants, which limit potential activities inside the dam property. Officials reiterated the restrictions would not allow for any type of golf course, resort or any other business or industry in the area.

“Probably one of the biggest rumors is about what we’re going to do with all the land, and I’ve heard ridiculous things like a golf course or Marriot hotel,” city attorney Roy Williams said.  “There is no agricultural, industrial or commercial activity allowed, which should dispel all those rumors. Recreation is allowed, like public park space or walking trails, but that all has to be approved by the Corps. The covenants are quite extensive.”

Other reports have circulated that the site itself is not suitable to build a dam, which project coordinator Susan Eller said is a bit of misinformation that likely originated during the dam design process. Engineers had considered building a total roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam, but after further study of the site decided a hybrid dam using RCC and earth-fill components would be a better fit for the terrain.

“There are some rumors the dam can’t be built because the rocks aren’t there, and that doesn’t even make sense,” Eller said. “Phase I was all about exploration, and they had thought about doing a RCC dam. Looking at it now, they just think a hybrid design will work better.”

Engineers say the project remains on track to bid dam construction by the end of the year.

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