DCR Explains Purpose for Dam Regulations

Lynchburg, VA - Dams lately have become something of a headache for many people.

The Ivy Lake dam in Bedford County owners say would need almost $2 million in upgrades to pass state requirements.

We did some research, and found out, Ivy Lake is not alone. 300 state-wide, have been deemed as high-hazard.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation implements and enforces dam regulations. And recently, with the buildup of once rural communities, the rules for dams are changing.

"This is the dam at issue. We paid a gentleman $2,000 to clear this clean like you see it here. As required; you have to have it cleared 25 feet out from the toe of the dam" said Frank McFarland, who has lived in the Lakeland subdivision, for 13 years.

His property is a stone's throw from the eight acre Lakeland Lake, and even closer to its dam.

"The proposal of raising the dam was going to cost us a quarter of a million. That was the highest option" said McFarland.

Virginia DCR did an analysis of the Lakeland dam and determined that it was high hazard. Meaning, if breached, had the potential to take lives down stream.

The dam was fine years ago, but as McFarland explains, the area has changed.

"Timberlake Road years ago was two lane like I said, it's now four lane, those businesses and homes and apartments, are all downstream of us" he said.

McFarland and 100 other Lakeland property owners have till September to make mandatory upgrades to the dam, or, drain the lake.

"As people have moved in downstream, some of these dams have gone from lower levels, to a high hazard dam" said DCR Spokesman, Gary Waugh.

DCR officials say even though the chance a dam may break is slim, they can't risk it.

Many high hazard dams are structurally sound; however, they sit upstream from major populations.

The Lakeland dam would require 32 inches of rain in 24 hours for it to breech.

"The levels that we're requiring these dams to meet, are extremely high, there's no doubt about that. But we are doing it for a very good reason, because we're trying to save lives downstream" said Waugh.

Right now, the Lakeland community is still waiting to hear if their latest proposal will be approved by DCR. It would lower lake levels and widen their spillway; hopefully, not costing each home owner more than $500.

Draining the lake is always another option. But McFarland said that could potentially hurt lake-front property values.

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