A message from Big Canoe GM Scott Auer: Good news about Disharoon Lake

Dear Neighbor,

Just as pandemic restrictions were lifted and a sense of normalcy was returning to Big Canoe, this encouraging news coincided with the discovery of a leak in the corroded 220-foot pipe leading out of Disharoon Lake

The kind of summer that we have all come to love in Big Canoe was in doubt.

I am pleased to let you know that we’ve turned a corner: Big Canoe and Federal EC, which specializes in pipe inspection and repair, have inked an agreement that will allow a permanent replacement of the corroded pipe. This puts us on course to open Disharoon in mid-July and restore much of what we all love about Big Canoe’s favorite summertime hotspot.

The subject of Disharoon Lake is perhaps the one I am asked about most often. With that in mind, here are some questions and issues that I’d like to address.

Is Big Canoe is going to have a summer?
The Wildcat and Beach Club pools opened on May 29 on schedule; we’re gearing up for an activity-packed Fourth of July weekend, complete with fireworks over Lake Petit; and we’re about to cut the ribbon on the new bocce courts on Wednesday, June 16. And don’t forget the opening of the new sports court near Wildcat this summer. With all of this plus our children’s camps, there is no shortage of summertime activities.

However, Disharoon is one of our biggest seasonal attractions. We will indeed have the lake filled, the beach open, and watercraft paddling. We are inspecting the rockslide for damage and will dredge out the splash pools – so we hope to have our kids careening down the rockslide again in mid-July.

When exactly will Disharoon be back?
The process of draining the lake has been rife with unexpected challenges, including weather events that set us back, so we’re hesitant to commit to a specific date. That said, we are aiming for a mid-July opening.

Why can’t you commit to a specific date – and is the Fourth of July weekend a possibility?
We can’t count on everything to always fall into place as planned, including the weather – and we are hesitant to lock in a definitive July 4 opening. While there is a chance we can get this done ahead of the projected mid-July date, when you are dealing with an infrastructure that is nearly a half-century old, you can’t count on each step to unfold exactly as envisioned.

What has to be done?
There have been three major issues to address.

The first centers around the 220-foot-long corrugated metal drain pipe (CMP) that passes through the bottom of the earthen dam that created Disharoon Lake. The engineering plan is to slip a more durable, permanent, 220-foot-long high-density polyethylene pipe inside the outdated CMP. A high-strength concrete grout will then be injected around the new pipe, filling any voids surrounding the damaged metal pipe. With all the recent pandemic-related supply-chain issues, we were unable to secure a pipe with the required size and strength for the job until the end of May.

The second issue concerns a concrete collar, which will be poured over the exposed end of the corrugated pipe where the original damage occurred. The concrete collar, laid on an engineered foundation, will secure the new pipe in place and protect the structure around its penetration point in the earthen dam.

The final issue was the lake’s sluice gate. The sliding gate, which allows us to control the volume of water released from the lake, appeared to be stuck open. The tireless efforts of a team led by Geosyntec Consultants, the engineering specialists who work with us on our dams, and the POA Public Works department got the gate moving freely in the last week of May.

Now that the three issues can be addressed, what’s next?                                                                                                                                    In conjunction with Geosyntec and our Public Works crew, Federal EC is scheduled to arrive on site this week and, weather permitting, likely to start work next week on simultaneously fixing those first two issues. Once the segments of the new pipe are fused together and installed, the grouted pipe will go in place and the concrete collar set. Then, we will begin slowly refilling the lake we all love. We are cautiously optimistic we can get these tasks completed by mid-July. But as we continue to learn in dealing with our nearly 50-year-old infrastructure, we don’t want to overpromise and under deliver. And the weather has to cooperate.

When you get the pipe working and the Disharoon is full, can we finally enjoy the lake?
Disharoon will open for sunbathing on our refreshed beach, with swimming and paddling watercraft available. The rockslide is undergoing inspection to determine if any damage occurred to its smooth, coated surface during all our spring storms. And the splash pools at the bottom of the rockslide need to be cleaned of silt. The inflatables will have to wait another year before we can enjoy them.

Will the opening of Disharoon affect my Aquatics Amenity Plan?
Daily passes for the reopened Disharoon/Beach Club will be $10 for Property Owners, $15 for visitors. The fee also includes same-day access to the Wildcat Pool. Daily passes for just the Wildcat Pool are $4 for Property Owners, $6 for visitors. Weekly passes that provide access to Disharoon/Beach Club and Wildcat are $50 for Property Owner, $75 for visitors. The all-access seasonal plan is available only for Property Owners at $180 for a full membership, $70 for an individual. For more info: tsawyer@bigcanoepoa.org.

Will any further work be required at Disharoon Lake?
The wooden swim dock at the lake is also very old – and its replacement with a new modular concrete seawall and floating canoe launches was part of our 2021 Capital Replacement budget. This work was originally planned for October 2021 and is on schedule to be completed at that time. We are also ordering several replacement brackets and parts for the sluice gate now that we have been able to fully inspect it after 48 years. These parts will also be installed this fall. Disharoon will therefore be slowly drained one more time in October under a plan developed and monitored by Geosyntec that also will ensure everything is still in good working order.

How is all this being paid for?
We estimate that the full cost of repairs for the lower level drain pipe, sluice gate, and dredging of Lake Sconti will be in the range of $1.5-1.8 million. This is being paid for out of our combined Operational Cash, Capital Replacement, and Master Plan Accounts. Note that a portion of this work was already included in the Capital Replacement Budget for 2021.

Couldn’t have we predicted this?
The issue with Disharoon emerged after the lake had been drained and a late March 2021 deluge strained and damaged the exposed drainage system. This problem hadn’t yet emerged in November 2020 when Geosyntec conducted a camera inspection of the pipeline, which did not reveal the problem that recently became apparent, said Wesley MacDonald, Geosyntec senior engineer.

Who’s to say we won’t have the same issues with Lake Petit dam?
Unlike Disharoon Lake, Lake Petit’s lower-level drain system is constructed of reinforced concrete. Lake Petit’s sluice gate was inspected by trained divers in September 2020. Also, a full underground camera inspection was performed by Geosyntec of the entire Lake Petit lower-level outlet drain system at the same time. Unlike the Lake Petit Dam, Disharoon’s dam was built with a galvanized metal outlet pipe – much like the ones recently replaced on the Creek 9 Course. These are two completely different constructed structures.


Scott Auer

General Manager

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