Liberty Weighs Options on Ivy Lake Dam Issue

Lynchburg, VA - When a developer gave Ivy Lake in Forest to Liberty University in 2008, no one imagined that just a few years later there would be talk of possibly draining it.

Engineers recently discovered a potential danger with the lake's dam.

The dam certificate expired in September, after engineers hired by the university alerted the state about the problem. The dam can operate under a conditional certificate until August 2014. In the meantime, the university has to find a solution.

Bob Bashore decided to build his house on the lake in the 1990s.

"The general beauty of it was an attraction," said Bashore.

Living downstream, Bashore says he's never really worried much about the lake's earthen dam.

"It's been up for certification and passed every time," Bashore said.

According to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, when an engineering firm hired by Liberty University inspected the dam this fall they discovered a problem.

The spillway isn't big enough to meet new regulations, according to a letter the university sent neighbors. The state says the spillway is erosion prone. The dam itself could eventually erode, even fail.

"It was quite the surprise. We knew there was some work going on, but that's about all we knewWith the implication that financial assistance would be needed," Bashore said.

Enlarging the spillway could cost $2 million. Liberty says the cost outweighs the benefits the university enjoys by maintaining the lake. The university does not currently charge neighbors to use the lake or to help maintain it.

The university will present two other options when it meets with neighbors tonight.

One option Liberty is discussing is a transfer of ownership of the lake and dam, letting the new owner decide how to proceed. Another option is draining the lake.

The state could eventually order the lake to be drained if the dam isn't fixed, but a DCR spokesman says it is too early to talk about doing that.