College Lake to remain drained after College Lake Dam nearly breaches

Divers will assess reservoir's intake and outfall on Wednesday


LYNCHBURG, Va. – After opening the outfall sluice of the College Lake Dam Saturday, the city of Lynchburg's Department of Water Resources still noticed a problem with the dam.

By opening the sluice, the reservoir drained within 12 hours; however, by Sunday, water levels began to rise in the College Lake reservoir area, which was not supposed to happen, according to Jes Gearing with the city's department of water resources.

A team of divers will access the reservoir’s intake and outfall on Wednesday so the department can determine how to best manage the flow of water from Blackwater Creek through the area. 

What to know about the 'high hazard' College Lake Dam in Lynchburg

The decision to drain College Lake was made out of a concern for public safety, according to Gearing.

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.

With the lake being completely drained, fish in the lake did die.

Gearing said that while Lynchburg is sensitive to environmental impacts, its No. 1 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, water department 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 a 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.

Long-term plans, including whether the dam will remain in place or be removed, will be decided in the future between Lynchburg and the University of Lynchburg.

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