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Liberty University’s Ivy Lake property has been home to numerous crew team events and warm Saturday swims. It has also served as a serene backdrop to the surrounding neighborhoods.
However, a recent discussion in a public meeting revealed that the lake’s dam is in need of immediate, costly repairs, which has some homeowners worried.
According to the Virginia Department of Recreation and Conservation, a deficiency in the original construction of the dam was discovered in its most recent inspection.
Certificates are required of dam owners every six years, department spokesman Gary Waugh said. The Ivy Creek dam certificate expired in September.
“The Department of Recreation and Conservation issued a two-year conditional certificate in the fall, requiring a series of actions by certain deadlines, which includes submission of a permit application by July 31 that addresses the dam’s inadequacies,” a letter that Liberty sent to Ivy Lake homeowners stated.
Officials and engineers representing Liberty held a public meeting with lake residents Monday, Feb. 4 at Williams Stadium to discuss options and answer questions.
Bob Bashore, an Ivy Lake resident and former Forest District representative on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors, said that he knew Liberty was working to get the dam relicensed.
“I wasn’t aware personally of the ‘ins and outs’ of the issue until I got the recent notice,” Bashore said. “Many of the Ivy Lake residents have boats or canoes, and they enjoy the benefits of its scenic beauty.”
Various lake homeowners are concerned that the dam’s need for attention would have an impact on real estate value, according to Bashore.
Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said that Liberty received Ivy Lake in 2008 as a gift from local developers, including a Liberty alumnus.
According to the letter sent to Ivy Lake homeowners, engineering costs of studying the dam and having it recertified have exceeded $100,000.
During the public meeting, Liberty offered three options for lake residents to choose from.
The first option would be to repair the dam and expand the spillway to meet state standards.
According to the letter, repairs are estimated to be at least $2 million or more if the repairs require the purchase of land to widen the spillway. The letter also states that maintenance and repairs would need “proportional financial support” from residents, but it did not say how much would be needed.
Another option would be to drain the lake and breach the dam, leaving road access available on Ivy Lake Drive.
“If the dam is not recertified, the Department of Recreation and Conservation would order the measure,” the letter stated. “Draining the lake and lowering the dam, or installing culverts to ensure water is not impounded, would meet requirements and be much less expensive than repair.”
However, according to the letter, options like draining the lake would negatively impact the ability of the university and homeowners to use and enjoy the lake and negatively affect the value of surrounding properties.
The third option would be to build a concrete spillway. This option would be slightly more expensive than the first option, according to Falwell.
Waugh said that it is rare for the agency to order a dam breached, and such a decision usually comes after an impasse with the owner or if all possible options are exhausted.
“It’s way too early in the process to determine what the department may or may not order,” Waugh said.
According to Falwell, the university’s limited uses of the lake do not justify the expense required to repair it.
“Because of the benefit that the lake brings to the community and Liberty’s desire to be a good neighbor to residents of Central Virginia, we would be willing to pay half the cost of enlarging the spillway if the Ivy Lake homeowners paid the rest,” Falwell said. “If the residents do not value the lake enough to help fix it, Liberty has the option of draining the lake and selling the land … for residential uses and conservation easements. We are very hopeful that the lake is saved, though. It is a beautiful lake and a real asset to Bedford County.”
As a conclusion was not reached during the meeting, homeowners and Liberty agreed that no one wants to see the lake destroyed. According to university engineers, a decision needs to be reached by this summer.