Smithfield opts not to fix dam

Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2020

By Diana McFarland


The Smithfield Town Council has opted not to fully repair the Waterworks Road dam, but instead look at two other options, with one being removal of the dam, and the road, itself. 

The Town Council has requested an estimate on what it would have cost to fully repair the dam so it can explain to residents why the fix is too costly and why the dam and road may have to be removed, said interim Town Manager Sanford “Sandy” Wanner. 

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The other option is to drain the lake and install a culvert so water can still flow, said Wanner. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The issue came to a head because the dam needs another two-year conditional permit from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the state is requiring additional work, despite a fix in 2017. 

“We’re still under the gun to do something,” said Wanner.  

So far, and before the final analysis to be conducted by the consultant is complete, the current cost estimate to fully repair the dam is upwards of $1.5 million, said Wanner.

The Waterworks dam holds the Smithfield Lake, where residents can fish, although use is fairly light, said Wanner. 

Waterworks Road also includes residential properties as well as Mt. Tabor Church of God.

The Town Council will move to accept the proposal to deeply analyze the two remaining options — draining the lake and building a culvert or removal of the dam and road — at its April 7 meeting, as well as what it would have cost to fully repair and replace the dam, said Wanner. 

The results of the analysis will likely take nine months and any actual work will not begin until 2022. Along the way, the public will be informed, as well as Isle of Wight County, said Wanner.

When the decision is finally made, it will be vetted in a thoroughly transparent way, said Wanner. 

Recent problems with the dam began in 2010 when heavy rains weakened the structure. Repairs were made a few years later, per the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Dam Safety Division, mostly to protect those living downstream.   {/mprestriction}