Two Chatham Dams Need Improvements - WSET.com - ABC13

Two Chatham Dams Need Improvements

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Pittsylvania Co., VA - Two dams in Chatham require major improvements-- millions of dollars worth.

A state commission says the dams on Cherrystone Lake and Roaring Fork Lake are high-hazard dams.

The biggest areas of concern are the spillways associated with those dams.

According to state regulations, those spillways need to be twice the size they are now, but local officials say they aren't too worried. 

Joe Rogers knows first hand what can happen when a dam fails. 

"It was a sobering experience, " said Rogers.

Rogers was one of many civil engineers called in when a dam in Toccoa, Georgia failed in 1977 and killed 39 people.

As the former mayor of Chatham, Rogers is working with the town to prevent a future disaster. Officials say, while it's unlikely for such a dam break to occur here, it is possible.

"There is a potential of dam failure, that there will be potential of overflooding the highway or property damage or loss of life, " said Town Manager Edmund Giles.

Flooding into the spillways has never been an issue from the two lakes, but regulations adopted in 2008 require additional space to be made for the high hazard dams and their spillways.

The problem is funding.

"We're going to try to make corrections to these spillways but they don't have the funds to do what it's going to cost, " Giles said.

 The town of Chatham, which owns the operating license for the two dams, used a state grant to create a computer simulation of what would happen in the event of a dam break.

The damage would be devastating to many people in the immediate area, but Rogers says a storm of that magnitude is one in 10,000.

"There is no reason to worry about a failure of the dam. We're looking at a very low probability event, " said Rogers.

Expanding those spillways could cost the town millions of dollars. Giles says they are hoping to get state grants to help them fund the project, but they don't expect it to be finished for at least a few years.
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