Madison County leaders have long tried to reach a solution on the “high-hazard dam” at Seagraves Lake, where one home sits within a flood zone.

Now, an action could come through legislative means. State Senator Frank Ginn, who also serves as the Madison County Industrial Development and Building Authority Executive Director, has introduced Senate Bill 319, which would allow for homes and other inhabitable structures to be built in a dam’s inundation zone. The state would require that structures have to be built to withstand a breach of the dam and receive certification from an engineer approved by the state Environmental Protection Division’s Safe Dams Program.

The proposal was unanimously passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee and could go soon for a full vote in the Georgia Senate.

The county took ownership of Seagraves Lake off Seagraves Mill Road in the western portion of Madison County in 2007 with the intention of repairing the dam and using the lake as a water source.

Brian Kimsey and Clayton Hunnicutt of Carter Engineering gave a presentation to the county industrial authority in January, explaining that the dam is considered a Category I “high-hazard dam” and that the lake is not a feasible water source for the county. But the IDA remains stuck with the responsibility of upgrading the dam to mitigate the potential hazard in the event of a dam breach. Ginn said that according to auditors, the county has already spent over $400,000 on the dam since taking ownership of it.

Category I dams must undergo regular inspections and meet certain requirements because a breach of those dams is considered a potentially life-threatening situation. Category II dams don’t have inhabitable structures in their flood zones.

Ginn said the legislation could provide another option in dealing with the Seagraves Lake dam issue.

“If it passed into law, and only if, it may give another option if someone wanted to purchase the one house in the breach zone,” said Ginn. “If they raised the house, or moved it, then the dam would become a Category II dam. If the law was in effect, the only inhabitable structure that could be built in the breach zone would have to be ‘hardened’ so that Seagraves dam would never be a Category I dam again. Not the lowest cost option but if there was enough desire from someone or a group of people, they could spend the money to move the house.”

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