Drained lake may go to county

By Ed Brock

The ongoing saga of Lake Tara may end peacefully with the lake being donated to the county.

Or it may still go to court in Gwinnett County.

At the end of last June Michael Adamson of Suwanee, who says he owns Lake Tara just north of Jonesboro cut a hole in the dam that held the lake in. The water drained away under Tara Road, initiating the fight by Lake Tara residents like Deborah Ybarra to get their lake back.

But that fight may end if Adamson donates the lake to the county, which Adamson's attorney Matt Mashburn said is possible.

"There are any number of options being discussed by the parties and that is one of them," Mashburn said.

According to Ybarra the county would then transfer ownership of the lake to her non-profit organization, Lake Tara Nature Habitation.

"We have to bang out all the dings (on the deal,)" Ybarra said.

But Ybarra was not quick to say the donation of the lake property would mean a cessation in the legal combat between her group of property owners and Adamson.

"I can't say this will drop the lawsuit because the lake has to be repaired," Ybarra said.

In an e-mail to Ybarra, Adamson contends that his grandfather built the lake in 1936. Adamson said he drained the lake because he couldn't afford the cost of repairing the dam that holds it.

Ybarra did some research on the ownership of the lake and contends that it was deeded to the now defunct City of Lake Tara in the early 1950s. The lake should still be public property, Ybarra said, and the residents have filed a lawsuit seeking to restore the lake.

Last month a Clayton County Superior Court judge decided the case should be heard in Gwinnett County, Mashburn said. It is still in the process of being transferred so no court date has been set.

Ybarra said she wants the lake to be restored and the dam fixed to meet the standards of the Georgia Safe Dams Act. Adamson has said that the act would have required him to effect the repairs he claimed were too expensive. Ybarra claims the dam was not on the list of "Category 1" dams that are considered dangerous under the act.

There's a reason for that, said Ed Fiegle, program manager for the Safe Dams Program.

"We haven't gotten to it yet," Fiegle said.

Engineers with the program have taken note of a neighborhood that could be threatened if the dam broke, but since the lake has been partially drained there is no "sense of urgency" to classifying the dam.

However, Fiegle said the residents around Lake Tara "should be careful what they wish for."

Mashburn said he's sure the dam would be classified as a Category 1 after the state processes it.

Meanwhile, the residents are continuing their "Save Lake Tara Yard Sale" at the Church of God of Prophecy on Jonesboro Road next door to Harold's Barbecue this weekend. The sale will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Ybarra said.

Anybody interested in donating items to the yard sale or for more information call Ybarra's organization at (770) 473-1119.