Officials: Dam in Arkansas’ Saline County on Verge of Collapse

November 6, 2018

A dam at a central Arkansas lake has many safety issues that indicate a lack of maintenance and could cause the structure to collapse, according to state officials.

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission engineer Stephen Smedley inspected the Lake Sandy dam this year and identified needed repairs that could cost at least a half million dollars, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The commission warned nearby homeowners of issues that could cause the dam to break, emptying the Saline County lake.

“The internal erosion and voids could cause the dam to collapse,” a letter to residents stated. “The many slides, slumps, erosion channels, large trees, rodent activity and animal burrows on the upstream and downstream slope are very concerning and indicate a lack of maintenance.”

Property owners worry they’ll be liable for damages if the unregulated dam fails.

The Lake Sandy Property Owners Association acquired the dam in 1992 and is responsible for its maintenance. The association had its last meeting in the mid- to late-1990s, and residents believe that’s when dam maintenance stopped.

If dues had been collected and used to maintain the dam, some of the structure’s larger problems could’ve been prevented, Smedley said.

But Mike Oglesby, who lives in a camper by the lake, estimated that residents haven’t paid dues to the association for at least 20 years.

Oglesby didn’t know anything about the dam until this year, and neither did state dam safety officials. Arkansas has data on 410 regulated dams and nearly 900 more for informational purposes, but no documentation on Lake Sandy. The Lake Sandy dam and its ownership aren’t known to the National Inventory of Dams, either.

“It’s not a matter that the dam will break,” Oglesby said. “It’s when it will break.”

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