Lakeside Drive closed Saturday as crews study Lynchburg’s hazardous dam

City leaders said early phases of project will take about 18 months

85-year-old hazardous dam to close in Lynchburg
85-year-old hazardous dam to close in Lynchburg

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Behind the sounds of rushing lake waters are crews slamming a sledgehammer to test out the waves and frequency underground.

“You need to have quiet on the dam and having that traffic would interfere with that test,” said Erin Hawkins, the water quality manager for Lynchburg Water Resources.

Drivers are being rerouted Friday and Saturday while contractors conduct a geo-technical subsurface test. This means they want to get an even closer look at what’s inside the dam. They’re collecting soil samples and drilling holes into the road until they can’t anymore.

“It will help inform the design decisions, how to remove this dam and how far down we can lower this road,” Hawkins said.

In August 2018, heavy rain and flooding caused the lake to overtop on Lakeside Drive, putting homes and businesses downstream in danger.

“That could happen again. As scary as that may seem,” Hawkins said.

The dam is 85 years old and a high-hazard right now, which is why this project has become more important for city leaders.

“Public safety and protection is one of our top priorities in consideration of the removal of the dam,” Hawkins said.

In years to come, for $20 million, the city will eventually remove the road to build a bridge, restore the lakebed and reconnect it with Blackwater Creek.

“You can imagine a bridge off to the background here carrying traffic off of Lakeside Drive on up. Then we’ll be able to get into any time of heavy construction down here. That’s still a few years out,” Hawkins said.

A few more years, but right now, city leaders are pledging to keep an eye above the dam no matter what mother nature brings.

City leaders said the early phases of this project will take about 18 months.

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