Macon flood warnings and dam issues

The Ocmulgee River is rising due to the recent heavy rain in Middle Georgia. As a result, the dams are becoming increasingly unstable and more areas are filling up with standing water. The National Weather Service has issued several flood warnings in surrounding counties.
The latest news update from John Boyer of 13WMAZ states the flood warnings have mainly been issued due to the rise in the river. As of Feb. 27, the Ocmulgee River has reached a level of 19.3 feet in the Macon area, and is predicted to rise higher.
“Minor flooding involves water covering parts of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail (Riverwalk) and low-lying agricultural areas downstream from Macon. The Ocmulgee Heritage Trail is closed until the river recedes and any debris is cleaned,” said Boyer. If the river continues to rise and flooding ensues, the excess of water will become a problem spreading farther than just the Macon community.
With the increase in rainfall over the past weeks, some areas have even experienced schools closing due to the un-drivable roads. The dirt roads in Laurens County have ultimately turned to “mush,” according to Liz Fabian and Mike Stucka of the Macon Telegraph.
The Telegraph said, “Laurens County has already streamed past a rainfall record from archives that go back a century. That kind of rainfall is putting stresses on communities across Middle Georgia with rising rivers.”
Areas of southern and eastern parts of Georgia are also experiencing a similar issue. Dirt and asphalt roads are becoming increasingly hazardous as the rain continues to fall, presenting more problems to traffic, especially school bus traffic, in the areas.
The Telegraph warns of the danger of driving through flooded areas during heavy rainfall because vehicles can be swept away with the current.
According to Jenna Mink of the Telegraph, the Ocmulgee River was expected to rise to 20 feet last week, two feet above flood stage. The river did not fall below 18 feet until Saturday, but several families remained cut off from their homes due to flooding.
More rain is expected within the next week, which brings even more worries about flooding of the Ocmulgee River and other nearby areas. The National Weather Service has put out flood watches and warnings across the state with the possibility of more rain on the forecast.
To add to the flood scare, a major concern about dam control and inspection has arisen in the Bibb County area, as well as other areas of Georgia.
These dams are not checked on a regular basis, and few guidelines exist concerning dam inspection. Some dams have not been checked in over 10 years.
The issue of their durability is relevant issue with the significant increase in recent rainfall.
“For the 70 percent of high-hazard dams – dams that could kill someone if they fail – that are privately owned, the cost and liability for maintenance and repairs fall to the owner,” said Tom Woolsey, manager of Georgia’s Safe Dams Program, in the Telegraph report.
“Fixing dams with significant problems can cost millions of dollars.”
Despite the cost, the danger of these dams failing will affect hundreds of people, if not more. The issue of limited resources in the programs regulating dams remains.
“Huge backlogs and inconsistent enforcement of Georgia’s dam regulations are linked to the small staff and budget that Georgia provides its Safe Dams Program,” said Telegraph reporter S. Heather Duncan.
The dams are being continually neglected, and this might be the reason, along with insufficient funding, that many people are in harm’s way.