12Eel The Hope Mills Lake dam survived visits from two hurricanes this past year with one minor exception.

The eel ladder, which allows American eels to gain access to Hope Mills Lake, suffered damage to a device known as the attractor pump. Now it’s time for town officials to begin the work of having the pump repaired and put back in working order.

The attractor pump is located on the downstream side of the creek bed near the base of the dam.

Don Sisko, who heads the public works department for the town of Hope Mills, said it’s directly below the two depressed soil areas on the side of the dam near Main Street.

“You can’t see the pump unless the water is really low,’’ Sisko said. “The only thing you see is the eel ladder and some piping that runs off the pump that dumps near the water surface to provide the splash for the attractor.’’

It’s that splashing water the pump creates that draws eels to the ladder so they can access the lake.

The season for eel migration begins March 15, so Sisko is hopeful work on the pump can be completed well in advance of that date.

Sisko said a local contractor has already been onsite to assess the damage done to the wiring for the pump. The contractor also looked at any changes that need to be made to better safeguard the wiring so more damage isn’t done to it in the future.

In addition, the contractor looked over the location to see what will be required to gain safe access to the pump and actually perform the repairs.

Sisko said he’s not sure how long the work to repair the pump’s wiring will take. “I’ve never been involved in pump repair in a running creek,’’ he said. 

But he added this isn’t an overly complex job and it can be performed by any competent electrical contractor. “It’s not astrophysics,’’ he said. “It’s pretty basic work.’’

Because the damage to the pump’s wiring was a direct result of the hurricane that struck Hope Mills, Sisko said the town is eligible to get money to pay for the repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Sisko said he doesn’t know if the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government will cause any delay in Hope Mills being able to get that money, though.

As for the dam itself, Sisko said representatives of Schnabel Engineering, the company that built the restored dam, have visited the site for a posthurricane inspection. Save for the damaged pump, he said, the Schnabel representatives saw no problems with the structure.

They will be returning in the near future for a scheduled periodic inspection.

Sisko remains confident of the dam’s status. “I tell folks that the dam was designed based on good science and built based on good construction practices,’’ he said. “There’s no absolute guarantees, but if you do (build on good science and sound construction), you stand a very good chance.

“It was our first hurricane with the dam. It got a lot of attention, but it withstood the weather, both literally and figuratively, and we’re carrying on.’’

Sisko felt the town’s public works department handled the challenges of the dam’s first hurricane well. “That’s what we’re here for,’’ he said. “We’re here to take care of the town, and we’re going to continue doing that.’’

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