06/27/10 — Dam repairs forced fish kill

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Dam repairs forced fish kill

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 27, 2010 1:50 AM

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Troy Herring

A bass lies aground among hundreds of other dead fish at Bear Creek early Friday morning. The creek was just recently drained on reports that the state of North Carolina was seeking to replace the earth dam with a new concrete dam.

The hundreds of dead fish at Rudy Hill Dam are the result of orders from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Division of Land Resources to drain the pond and repair the dam.

"We had to drain it to fix it," said Bud Gray, chairman of Wayne County Drainage District. "I hate it. I hate it killed all those fish. Dam Safety said fix it, so we had to fix it."

The problem, explained Patty Gabriel, director of conservation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, is that the back side of the dam -- which exists primarily for flood control -- where it drains into the Bear Creek tributary is eroding.

"(The distilling basin) had eroded over time with the design it was," she said. "We needed to drain the whole thing. It has to be dry to fix."

She also explained that it would not have been feasible to leave only a small amount of water in the pond -- that the fish would have died anyway, especially in the hot weather.

"It just depletes the oxygen in the water," Ms. Gabriel said. "That was a real dilemma."

They had hoped, however, that more fish would have left the pond as it was being drained.

However, she said, officials did want to get the work done before hurricane season heats up, although those efforts have been complicated by the fact someone broke the gate that controls the flow of water out of the pond trying to lower it. Still, she said, repairs should only take a few weeks.

As for the fish, Gray said there's little officials can do about them now.

"Just let nature take its course. It's going to be a bad odor for a while. There's no way we could get in there and take them out," he said.