Hope Mills Dam

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Hope Mills Dam
Hope Mills Dam and drained lake, June 2010
Hope Mills Dam is located in North Carolina
Hope Mills Dam
Location of Hope Mills Dam in USA North Carolina
Location Hope Mills, Cumberland County, North Carolina
Coordinates 34°58′20″N 78°56′42″W / 34.97222°N 78.94500°W / 34.97222; -78.94500Coordinates: 34°58′20″N 78°56′42″W / 34.97222°N 78.94500°W / 34.97222; -78.94500
Status Failed
Construction began 2007
Opening date 2008
Construction cost $9.8 million
Owner(s) Town of Hope Mills
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Concrete gravity
Impounds Little Rockfish Creek
Height 33 ft (10 m)[1]
Length 750 ft (230 m)
Spillway type Chute, labyrinth
Spillway capacity 10,240 cu ft/s (290 m3/s)[1]
Creates Hope Mills Lake
Total capacity 816 acre·ft (1,007,000 m3)[1]
Catchment area 94.4 sq mi (244 km2)
Surface area 88 acres (0.36 km2)

The Hope Mills Dam, also known as Hope Mills Dam #1, is a failed concrete gravity dam on Little Rockfish Creek in Hope Mills, North Carolina, USA, which created Hope Mills Lake. Three different dams were built on the site including the current one. The first dam, of rock-crib design, was built in 1839 to power local cotton mills. The second was an embankment dam built in 1924 for powering the mills and later to maintain the lake's water level. Both previous dams failed from flooding. The current dam failed in June 2010 after a leak was discovered and the lake was drained.


The first Hope Mills Dam was a rock-crib dam and was built in 1839 by the Rockfish Mills Co. for the powering of four cotton mills nearby.[2] In 1865, General Sherman and Union Army troops burned the cotton mills but spared the dam from destruction. After the American Civil War, two mills were rebuilt and the surrounding area including the dam was named Hope Mills.[3] On May 9, 1923 this first dam was breached by a flood and construction on an earthen-embankment dam began the same year. Rockfish Mills Co. again constructed the dam with designs from Mees Consulting Engineers of Charlotte and the actual construction by the Scott-Stewart Jones Co. The second dam cost $27,093 and was completed in early 1924.[4]

In 1930, Rockfish Mills Co. went bankrupt and was not bought until 1941 by Dixie Yarns. Dixie Yarns eventually gave the dam to the town in 1984.[3] In 1993, a two-lane Lakeview Road bridge was installed over the dam and at the same time a leak in the dam was repaired. In 1994, an unused turbine shaft from the old cotton mill site was uncovered and filled with cement. In addition, walls behind the dam's spillway were reinforced with rock after concerns were voiced about their strength. Hurricane Floyd brought heavy rains in 1999 which, after concerns of a dam breach, forced the opening of the floodgates. In 2001, a 6-foot (1.8 m) crack was repaired that engineers had determined was not structural. Later in 2001, the dam passed safety inspection but two small holes and some eroded concrete was repaired in 2002.[4]

2003 failure and reconstruction[edit]

The reconstructed dam in 2010

In late May 2003, over Memorial Day weekend, heavy rains caused the embankment dam to give way and also destroyed 30 feet (9.1 m) of the nearby Lakeview Road.[4] About 40 homes and 1600 people downstream were evacuated as water from Hope Mills Lake rushed down the creek causing $2.1 million in damages before making its way to the Cape Fear River. One of the floodgates on the dam had failed to open because of the pressure exerted by the flood waters, which helped push water over the top of the dam.[5] Later in 2003, Lakeview Road was repaired and plans for the repair of the dam were underway. After four years of fund and permit requests, construction on the new 14 million dollar Hope Mills Dam began in March 2007.[6] Crowder Construction Company was awarded the contract to construct the dam along with designs from Mactec, Morrison Engineers. The new dam would essentially be a concrete labyrinth-spillway that would expand the dam's ability to discharge flood waters. The new dam would be 600 feet (180 m) longer and would incorporate a fish ladder as well.[7][8] Construction of the new Hope Mills Dam was complete in June 2008 and the lake was again full by August.[8][9]

Water passing through a sinkhole in the dam's foundation

2010 failure[edit]

On Wednesday, June 16, 2010, a controlled release began after engineers noticed silt coming out of the lower side of the dam. Residents were informed to loosen the ropes to their boats because the lake was going to be lowered two feet. Town officials later told residents the lake may have to be lowered as much as nine feet to inspect the dam. Overnight a sinkhole developed at the base of the dam and the lake water drained underneath the foundation. By Thursday morning (June 17, 2010) almost all of the water in the lake was gone and the Town awoke to a news helicopter hovering overhead with a live video feed to ABC11.[10][11]

Repairs for the dam were expected to begin in August 2012 and end October 2013 but they never occurred.[12] A lawsuit was filed by the town in mid-October 2012, complaining that the companies involved were delaying the repairs which had yet to begin.[13] In April 2013 Mayor Jackie Warner requested a plan to remove the dam but the town sued the builders for $10 million in May in order to pay for repairs.[14][15] In July 2014, the town received a $9.4 million settlement from the builders. As of April 2016, construction of a new dam started after years of frustration. Removal of the remains of the old dam must first occur, then the construction of the new dam will begin in earnest. [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "North Carolina Dam Inventory - 10 August 2009". North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Land Resource Division. Archived from the original on 2009-09-18. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Saskia L. Van De Gevel, Justin L. Hart, Henri D. Grissino-Mayer and Kenneth W. Robinson (2007-01-14). "Tree-Ring Dating Of Old-Growth Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) Logs From An Exposed Timber Crib Dam, Hope Mills, North Carolina, U.S.A". Tree-Ring Society. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  3. ^ a b "Dam -- that may say it all in Hope Mills today". Fay Observer. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c M.S., Parkton (2010-06-23). "Live Wire: Previous Hope Mills dam was built in 1923". Fay Observer.com. Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  5. ^ Associated Press (2003-05-25). "Hope Mills Dam bursts, forcing residents to evacuate". Herald Journal. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  6. ^ "Break in dam foundation material caused leak". ABC11.com. 2010-06-18. 
  7. ^ "Hope Mills Dam Repair". Morrison Engineers. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  8. ^ a b "Hope Mills to investigate dam failure". WRAL.com. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  9. ^ "Water drains from Hope Mills Lake again". WRAL.com. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  10. ^ "Water from Hope Mills Lake gone". ABC11.com. 2010-06-18. 
  11. ^ "Leaders meet to discuss dam failure". ABC11.com. 2010-06-21. 
  12. ^ Weber, Amanda (21 February 2012). "Hope Mills dam re-construction set to begin". TWEAN Newschannel of Raleigh, L.L.C. dba News 14 Carolina. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Hope Mills files lawsuit over failed dam". WRAL. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Gillis, Stacey (3 April 2013). "Hope Mills board approves county mayors' plan for sales tax revenues". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "North Carolina Town Files $10M Suit Over 2010 Dam Failure". Insurance Journal. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "Hope Mills dam construction starts today after years of frustration". Fay Observer. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 

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