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Fluvanna dam at risk of failure is one of 1,800 in Virginia that pose unknown risks

Erosion at the McIver Dam in Fluvanna County.
Erosion at the McIver Dam in Fluvanna County.(Fluvanna County)
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 8:07 AM EDT
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A privately owned dam in Fluvanna that officials have been working to keep from failing since Monday is one of more than 1,800 dams in Virginia whose risks to the public and property are unknown.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesman Dave Neudeck said the agency doesn’t have an accurate hazard classification for the McIver dam or a study of what areas would be inundated or otherwise directly affected by its failure.

The last recorded state inspection of the structure occurred in 1990 at the request of the dam owner.

Both the classification and the dam break inundation study are required by state regulations. Regulations also require that a dam inspection report be filed with DCR every year, with inspections by a professional engineer every one to six years depending on hazard classification.

The lack of information on the McIver Dam isn’t unusual: DCR officials say hundreds of dams in Virginia lack formal assessments of what hazards they pose.

“Currently there are more than 1,800 dams in the DCR inventory that are believed to be of regulatory size, but do not have a regulatorily required hazard classification determination,” wrote Wendy Howard Cooper, the department’s director of dam safety and floodplain management, in an email to the Mercury this November. “Of those 1,800, it is anticipated that at least 400 will be determined to be high-hazard dams.”

High-hazard dams are those whose failure would result in loss of life and/or significant economic damage.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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