August 2018 Photo: City of Lynchburg

The City of Lynchburg and University of Lynchburg have started the first phase of work that will lead to removal of the College Lake Dam. It begins with engineering designs, and a firm has been hired to evaluate the best options for removing the dam and restoring Blackwater Creek to its original state. Flooding caused extensive damage to the dam in August of 2018.

NEWS RELEASE: The City of Lynchburg and the University of Lynchburg are pleased to announce that the first phase of the College Lake Dam Removal Project is underway. The purpose of the project is twofold: to remove the 85-year-old high-hazard dam and to restore the resulting lakebed to a thriving environment where Blackwater Creek can re-emerge after more than eight decades. The City hired the engineering firm AECOM to conduct a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) to evaluate the best options for removing the dam and restoring the lakebed. The PER and design phase of the dam removal project are expected to take approximately 18 months.

During the August 2, 2018 flooding event, College Lake Dam suffered extensive structural damage, which resulted in the evacuation of approximately 150 residents who live downstream. Afterward, the City of Lynchburg and the University of Lynchburg worked closely with experts to make temporary repairs and install real-time monitoring equipment to reduce the risk of future emergencies. However, the dam remains a hazard and must be removed.
“We are excited to begin the design phase of this critical project. Over the next several months, we will work to create a shared vision for the removal of a high-hazard dam and restoration of Blackwater Creek in a way that will allow the community to enjoy this ecological and recreationally rich area,” said Lynchburg Deputy City Manager Reid Wodicka. “This is an excellent opportunity to improve public safety and showcase water quality improvements in our urban environment.”
“We look forward to the opportunity for our faculty and students to help create this world-class wetland learning laboratory,” said University President Dr. Kenneth Garren. “We also envision a public-private partnership with the City that will serve as a model for other communities addressing aging dams.”
In the coming weeks, AECOM scientists and engineers will study sediment and collect ecological data in the project area. Small flags will be placed in the ground within the project area to
identify these locations for later reference. Residents who come across these flags while walking or hiking near College Lake are asked not to tamper with them.
The dam removal design phase will be coordinated with a separate City project to build a four-lane bridge over Blackwater Creek. This bridge will replace the stretch of Lakeside Drive which
currently crosses the dam. While occasional brief closures on Lakeside Drive might be necessary, the roadway is expected to remain open to traffic throughout the dam removal design phase. Motorists will be alerted to any traffic changes.
The City and the University will hold public meetings to discuss project details and gather input from community members as the project moves forward.