On Saturday, August 4, crews from the City of Lynchburg’s Department of Water Resources opened the outfall sluice in the College Lake Dam to dewater the reservoir. Upon doing so, the reservoir drained within 12 hours, thus relieving pressure on the compromised dam and roadway. Within 24 hours, water levels began to rise in the College Lake reservoir area, prompting concerns as to why the dam’s open outfall was not fully draining the reservoir. In order to assess the outfall, a team of divers will access the reservoir’s intake and outfall on Wednesday, August 8 so the Department of Water Resources can determine how to best manage the flow of water from Blackwater Creek through the area.
The decision to drain College Lake was made out of a concern for public safety. After consulting with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR), Dam Safety Office, it was determined that draining the reservoir was the best action to ensure public safety and to stabilize the dam in order to allow individuals to return to their evacuated properties. Additionally, due to the nature of the outfall sluice, as well as the concerns over water volume and sediment in the reservoir, it was necessary to completely, and not partially, drain the reservoir. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of draining the reservoir was the loss of aquatic life. While the City of Lynchburg is sensitive to environmental impacts, its number one priority is to ensure public safety and reduce the probability of a dam failure. Although some fluctuations in water depth may be visible in the reservoir area during rain events, College Lake will remain dewatered and drained.
On Monday, August 6, the Department of Water Resources staff met with representatives from the DCR’s Dam Safety Office to assess the dam and begin the permitting process to stabilize the dam and roadway. Staff also met with representatives from Wetland Studies and Solutions to begin the environmental design for the drained College Lake area. Regarding the engineering design to stabilize the dam and the roadway, Wiley|Wilson is currently working on design for the dam and roadway repairs that will be submitted to the City and DCR for approval. At this time, preliminary repairs (including the reopening of Lakeside Drive) are estimated to be completed in six to eight weeks, but a final engineering design has not yet been approved by City staff. Long term plans, including whether the dam will remain in place or be removed, will be decided in the future between the City of Lynchburg and the University of Lynchburg.
1. Until the dam and roadway are stabilized, trespassing beyond the established fencing and barriers is not permitted due to safety concerns regarding the dam and the dry reservoir sediment.
2. The City of Lynchburg Disaster Recovery Group (CLDRG) will be assisting those residents impacted by the flooding. Donations (monetary only) to this effort can be sent to the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, 1100 Commerce Street, Lynchburg, VA 24504, or donate online at www.lynchburgfoundation.org.
3. Now is a good time to update personal/family emergency plans and restock emergency supplies as the summer storm season continues. Citizens can also receive emergency alerts and National Weather Service alerts by signing up for Lynchburg Alerts. Visit www.lynchburgalerts.com
to register mobile phone numbers and email addresses. Citizens can subscribe to a variety of additional alerts including weather, press releases, road closures, etc.