North Fork Dam Improvement Project


north fork auxiliary spillway


Project is complete!

After more than three years of construction, the North Fork Dam Improvement Project is complete and fully operational.  The improvements provide long-term benefits by automating the decision-making element through capacity and safety measures, including reinforcing the earthen dams for seismic stability, providing additional spillway capacity to safely pass water from large precipitation events, and improved monitoring equipment to manage the dam’s physical assets more fully.

The City recently commemorated the completion of this project with a special event. This project also won a national dam safety award for Rehabilitation Project of the Year from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. 


Accomplishments since Spring 2018


Due to excessive amounts of rain in 2018 and winter 2020 the North Fork Dam Improvement Project has been somewhat delayed. Project completion is now on track for late summer 2020. Of note, the property received over 90 inches of precipitation in 2018, causing construction delays.

Progress update for the auxiliary spillway and dam improvements:

  • 75% of the buttressing of the main dam is complete.
  • Water / run-off collection system is complete on the main dam.
  • Principal spillway chute overlay is complete.
  • Work to remove the existing tainter gates, installation of obermeyer gate, and pouring of concrete weirs on the principal spillway is 75% complete.
  • Improvements to the intake tower are essentially complete. The tower now sports a red metal roof with a longer life cycle than the traditional shingles.
  • Extension of the conduit and tunnel are complete.
  • Auxiliary spillway:
    • Fusegates were completed in eight (8) weeks in the spring of 2019.
    • Over 50% of the spillway chute is complete. Walls are still being constructed.
  • Surrounding invasive vegetation (Silvergrass, Kudzu) treated with herbicide is 75% complete.
  • All the equipment related to the temporary raw water by-pass (pumps, barges, piping, and electrical panels) has been removed from the reservoir and dam, allowing for normal operations to resume.


Project Update August 2020





In a continued effort to prevent significant damage in the event of a natural disaster (flood or earthquake), the City of Asheville, in conjunction with consultants from Schnabel Engineering, have identified proactive improvement measures to be taken at the North Fork Reservoir to protect and improve critical infrastructure. The North Fork Reservoir and Water Treatment Plant serve as the City’s primary drinking water source, providing 70% of Asheville’s water. With so many people, businesses and industries dependent upon this critical natural resource, special care and proactive measures need to be taken to ensure our water source and infrastructure are protected.

Planned modifications at North Fork Reservoir include:

  • raising the dam by 4 feet;
  • improvements to the principal spillway and the addition of an auxiliary spillway;
  • modifications to the raw water piping through the dam and to the water treatment plant; and
  • earth buttressing to reinforce the main dam and saddle dam for seismic stability.

The bid for construction services was awarded in October 2017 to the contractor Phillips & Jordan, and construction is set to begin this winter.

Once completed, the dam will be able to better withstand inflow from severe storm events, as well as add capacity to the reservoir.

The dam, located at the North Fork Reservoir, was originally constructed in 1955 and its design was based on available information and industry standards for that time. In the last decade, advances in technology and data analytics have enabled engineers and scientists to better model and predict certain weather events and environmental conditions. More accurate information is available now than ever before and, due to that, best practices for modeling and simulating certain conditions have greatly improved. This information has allowed the City’s consulting engineers to simulate a variety of possible scenarios for extreme storm events. These models and design parameters are required by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Dam Safety, of all regulated dams. Based on the outcomes of these scenarios, the engineers have identified improvements to help protect the reservoir, the water source, and nearby residents in the event that one of these unlikely but possible events were to occur.


Emergency Action Plans


The City has had an Emergency Action Plan  (EAP) in place since the 1990s – and updated in 2006 – and has conducted training and “table top exercises” among senior staff within the City and surrounding communities’ emergency responders. Training topics covered what conditions constitute activating the EAP and how emergency responders will receive the information so they can be prepared, should an emergency associated with flooding arise.




August 22, 2016 Public information session at Doubletree Biltmore Village

August 23, 2016 Public information session at St. John’s Episcopal Church

August 24, 2016 Public information session at Riceville Community Center

August 25, 2016 Public information session at Bee Tree Fire Station Community Room

Fall 2016 Environmental consultant submits environmental permitting package to US Army Corps of Engineers and NCDEQ

Winter 2016 Engineers complete design, submit design package to NC Dam Safety for review

March 20, 2017 – Neighborhood Awareness Meeting  and  Presentation from Meeting

Spring – Summer 2017 Respond to agency comments on Environmental and Dam Safety permits and receive approvals as required.

Summer 2017 – Bid the construction work for the North Fork Reservoir Spillway and Embankment Improvement Project.

October 2017 – Bid contract awarded to Phillips & Jordan

November 20, 2017 – Construction update meeting at Black Mountain Public Library –  Presentation from Meeting

December 2017 – Construction mobilization to begin

Winter 2020 – Anticipated completion of construction for the North Fork Reservoir Spillway and Embankment Improvement Project.

Early Summer 2020 – Anticipated completion of the project.


Supporting Documents


Public Meeting Information

Frequently Asked Questions  – (updated May 02, 2019)

Look Back at Asheville’s Historic Flooding Events

US Army Corps of Engineers

NC Department of Environmental Quality – Dam Safety

North Carolina Emergency Action Planning




City of Asheville Resource Guide



Buncombe County and resources:

Make a Plan

North Carolina Emergency Management

North Carolina Risk Management

National Weather Service   National Weather Service Map

Contact Information


Updated 08/18/2020


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