Hundreds of Rough River Lake neighbors need special permission t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hundreds of Rough River Lake neighbors need special permission to stay in their homes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A mistake that goes back about 60 years has led to rough times at Rough River Lake, forcing hundreds of neighbors to apply to stay in their homes.

Bobbie-Jean Moore, 82, who lives beside the lake, said the area has always been peaceful and quiet for the most part.

"There's plenty of squirrels and rabbits and deer," he said.

But lately, Rough River Lake has been an enigma.

The lake stands at a seasonal low. For Moore, it's easy to see the line marked by a post where his property ends, and the easement -- or shared space -- with the government begins. The Army Corps of Engineers purchased private property decades ago for Rough River Dam to release water during flooding events, causing the lake to rise. 

But it turns that out possibly hundreds of homeowners got wrong information on where they could -- and could not -- build. 

"That is a true statement," said Army Corps Project manager Diane Stratton. "We also believed that flowage easement was close to that 534 elevation mark until we started our surveys. 

Statton said the Army Corps of Engineers has gone back to the deeds of land purchases from the late 1950s before homes were even here.

"The government didn't acquire land on a 534-foot elevation basis as thought," Srtatton said. "They acquired it on what's called a tangent line or a meets and bounds, which basically means it's not a contour. It's straight lines."

It means hundreds of homes stand partially or entirely on the government's easement and in the flood zone. 

"We are working with landowners to resolve any encroachment  in the government easement," Stratton said. "Does it require effort on everybody's part? Yes."

To which Moore, the first resident of the Holiday Beach community responded, "Why don't you leave people alone?"

Stratton said impacted homeowners need to do three things. First, have their property surveyed for elevation and location in relation to the newly released tangent lines. Second, locate and if necessary, relocate their septic tank if it's in the flowage easement. Third, request special permission from the Army Corps to be allowed to stay in their home. 

The concern is that some homeowners' requests will be denied, and they will be forced to move or tear down their home because of its location. 

When asked directly, Stratton said, "I can't say it's not possible. It's not our goal."

Rough River Lake runs through Breckinridge, Grayson and Hardin counties. There are just shy of 320 miles of easement. So far, 51 miles have been surveyed, and more than 400 homeowners are affected.

"This is a water supply reservoir, so the septic tank has to be out of the flood plain," Stratton said.

The estimated cost for moving a septic system ranges from $2,500 to $10,000. 

"It's enough to bankrupt you," Moore said.

Developer Charlie Corbett built more than 100 properties around Rough River Lake with his company Patriots Pointe Custom Homes. He's lobbying lawmakers to reduce or eliminate the administrative fees associated with resurveying land and applying to the Army Corps for special permission to stay on the land. If approved, it may save homeowners up to $3,000.

"We're going to do everything we can to work with these landowners to solve encroachment as efficiently as we can," Stratton said.

Nonetheless for Moore and his neighbors, there may be rough times ahead at Rough River Lake.

"Not much you can do to fight the government," Moore said. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is holding a meeting, similar to a town hall, on Monday for impacted lakefront neighbors. It starts at 6 p.m. Central Time at the Rough River State Resort Park. 

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