FLORENCE — A deadly low-head dam on Cypress Creek may finally be altered this summer.
Mike Doyle, head of the city’s Water and Gas departments, said design work on modifications is almost complete, leaving only permits from the Corps of Engineers to clear the way for bids to be solicited.
“Our plan is, as soon as we get the permits, to prepare for the bidding process,” he said. “We would like to bid it in February or March, with the intention of the contractor starting as soon as the weather permits.”
Ideally, the modifications would be done in June and July, when the creek’s water level is at its lowest, Doyle said.
The city-owned dam is used to control water flow into a nearby treatment plant.
The dam was built about 30 years ago without a permit from the Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over inland waterways, and the city paid a fine.
A dangerous current forms in the center of the dam, or weir, that can pull people under. The creek is popular with kayakers, and has claimed two lives in the past seven years, one in 2011 and another in 2005. The 2005 death resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city that was settled.
Signs around the weir encourage boaters to portage their craft around the dam, but they often are ignored.
McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, of Denver, has been hired to design the alterations to the dam, Doyle said. He estimates the cost of the work will be about $1 million.
Joey Leavitt, a citizen member of a committee formed to study safety solutions for the low-head dam, said the changes likely will involve placing stone at the base of the dam to eliminate the dangerous hydraulic.
“The permits have taken longer than we hoped, but that’s part of the process when you’re dealing with the federal government,” he said. “The design is not 100 percent complete, but I think things are progressing really well.”
Doyle said the city has received permit clearance from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and from state archeological officials.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.