Lake leaders weighing pros and cons of raising dam - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Lake leaders weighing pros and cons of raising dam

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

It's a new plan that could help save the primary drinking-water source for 400,000 neighbors in our area. The Appomattox River Water Authority is conducting an extensive study to determine if it should raise the dam at Lake Chesdin. That would pump billions of more gallons back into the lake, potentially scaling back water restrictions.

No one really welcomes the news when forced to limit water usage. That's why several localities are working together right now to find a fix.

For the first time this year, Frank Obereker is enjoying a sunny day on the lake.

"It's beautiful," he said.

He's fishing with a buddy and is glad to see water levels so high  - especially since that's not always the case.

"With the droughts that come here, Lake Chesdin gets hit the hardest. It not only affects the fishermen, but the boaters, and then the water restrictions," he said.

It's an issue the water authority's director Robert Wichser is working adamantly to address.

"Anytime you bank more water into your reservoir, that's a good thing," he said.

The proposal to raise the dam some 18 inches would accomplish just that, adding nearly two billion more gallons of water - but the authority has to be careful.

"What impact would raising the dam have on raising the wetlands and on what extent and if we have to mitigate and offset that impact, what is it going to cost?" Wichser asked.

Those questions are expected to be answered in a study the authority is now implementing. The state is prepared to offer a matching grant of up to  5 million dollars to see the project through. If the board moves forward, it will then have to decide who will pick up the remaining tab on the mutli-million dollar project.

Lake Chesdin provides drinking water for Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, and Prince George counties.

"Keep the water level at a consistent level here," Obereker said hoping the proposal becomes reality.

"That would have a good impact…I mean everybody seems to enjoy Lake Chesdin," he added.

Last year's wet summer was very helpful for water levels and officials are hoping for the same thing this summer, but they're giving this study high priority in hopes of finding a long term solution.

Next month, scientists will actually take to the water to get a better feel of how the wetlands are impacted by the lake. Those results will head to the lake's Board of Directors this summer. That board is then expected to make a decision on raising the dam in the Fall.

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