Category Archives: Dams

Virginia’s and the Nation’s Infrastructure Gets Graded by the American Society of Civil Engineers – 2017 Edition

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a “report card” on the state of engineered infrastructure in the United States.  The report covers infrastructure in aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, school facilities, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.  The latest national report (as of March 13, 2017) gave a grade of D+, the same as the grade in 2013.  The report estimated the cost of making necessary infrastructure improvements at $4.59 trillion, compared to the 2013 estimate of $3.6 trillion.  The full national report for 2017 is available online at  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at

According to the “What Makes a Grade” section  of the Report Card Web site, grades were assigned based on capacity to meet current and future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.  The grades are described as follows: A = exceptional; B = good; C = mediocre; D = poor; F = failing.

The 2017 national report also includes reports for each state.  As of 3/13/17, the Virginia assessment was a 2015 report compiled by the Virginia Section of the ASCE (ASCE-Va.).  The Virginia report is available at  The Virginia report give the Commonwealth an overall grade of C- (compared to a D+ in 2009), and the following category grades: bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; parks = C+; rail and transit = C-; roads = D; school facilities = C-; solid waste = B-; stormwater = C-; and wastewater = D+.

News item related to Virginia report in 2015: Virginia infrastructure earns grade of C-, Capital News Service, 1/21/15.

Other sources of information on infrastructure needs in Virginia and elsewhere:

National Bridge Inventory Database, online at

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “CorpsMap—National Inventory of Dams, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Clean Watesheds Needs Survey 2012 Report to Congress,” available online at  According to this Web site, this report is an “assessment of capital investment needed nationwide for publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (Fifth Report to Congress,” EPA 816-R-013-006, April 2013), available online at

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VTrans 2025: Virginia’s Statewide Multimodal Long-range Transportation Plan” (November 17, 2004): available online (as PDF) at

Virginia General Assembly joint subcommittee reports on school construction:
1) “Report on the Level of Assistance to Localities Necessary for Developing Adequate K-12 Schools Infrastructure,” House Document 5 for 2005 (published February 2005): available online at

2) “K-12 School Infrastructure,” House Document 2 for2006 (published November 2005); available online at

Infrastructure cartoon

Cartoon that accompanied a February 2010 Virginia Water Central newsletter article on the 2009 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers-Virginia Section.  Illustration by George Wills, Blacksburg, Va. (

Grants for Dam Safety and Flood Protection Available from Va. DCR in 2017; Deadline to Apply is Mar. 31, 2017

On February 21, 2017, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced the availability of $1.2 million in grants to dam owners and local governments from the Virginia Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund.  The deadline to apply for grants in this cycle is 4 p.m., March 31, 2017.  The grant manual is available (as a Word document) online at

Following is an excerpt from the DCR’s news release on the grants:
“The [grant] fund is managed by the Virginia Resources Authority on behalf of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  All grants are reimbursements and require a 50 percent match.  The maximum amount per grant will be determined based on amounts requested from eligible projects, application scores and available funds. …Grants are offered in two categories:
1) Dam safety grants are available to private dam owners and local governments for dams that have been under a regular or conditional certificate during the past 12 months.  If the applicant’s dam is not under a certificate, detailed documentation must be provided to demonstrate the steps being taken to bring the dam under certificate.  Grants may be used for dam break inundation zone analysis, mapping and digitization; probable maximum precipitation impact analysis and certification; hazard classification analysis; emergency action plan development; spillway capacity analysis; dam engineering and design activities; and other projects as specified in the grant manual.
2) Flood prevention and protection grants are available to local governments and can be used for community outreach and educational programs; ordinance development and revision; development of flood cost reduction and resiliency standards; locality flood warning and response systems; or improvements to floodplain programs.

More information is available in the grant manual (at the link mentioned above), or phone (804) 371-6095.

More information the DCR’s Dam Safety and Floodplains Program is available online at

Source: Grants available for dam and floodplain projects, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation News Release, 2/21/17.

Pigg River Dam Removal in Rocky Mount, Va., in Fall 2016

An unused power dam over 100 years old on the Pigg River in Rocky Mount, Va., was one of 72 outdated dams removed in the United States in 2016, according to the non-profit group American Rivers.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pigg River dam was built in 1915 for the Light and Power Company of Rocky Mount and later American Electric Power, and it has been inoperable since the late 1950s.

The dam’s demolition in fall 2016 opens up fish access to 72 miles of the Roanoke River tributary from its headwaters in Franklin County to the Leesville Lake on the Franklin/Bedford/Campbell county border.  The removal also will provide 2.2 miles of habitat for the Roanoke Logperch, which is on the federal Endangered Species List.

Partners in the removal of the Pigg River dam included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (the dam’s owners), Franklin County, the Town of Rocky Mount, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and American Electric Power.  Duke Energy provided $1 million for Pigg River dam removal as part of the company’s response to the February 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River (also a Roanoke River tributary) from a Duke facility near Eden, North Carolina.

Pigg River dam removal project part of national trend, Roanoke Times, 2/16/17.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, online at

A map of dams removed in the United States since 1916 is available from American Rivers, online at

More background on U.S. dams and the removal of outdated ones is available in “The Undamming of America,” by Anna Lieb for the Public Broadcasting System’s “NOVA Next,” 8/12/15, online at

Philpott Dam Releases on Smith River – Fall 2016 Debate over Fishing and Paddling Impacts

Trout fishing, stream paddling, tourism, fishing licenses, and hydroelectric power generation are all part of a debate in fall 2016 on the Smith River, a Dan River/Roanoke River tributary.  Philpott Dam and Reservoir, on the Smith River in Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties, are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facilities intended to provide hydropower, recreation, flood control, water supply, low-flow augmentation, and fish/wildlife habitat (more information on Philpott is available online at  The debate focuses on the volume and timing of releases from Philpott Dam and how those releases affect fishing and boating below the dam in Franklin and Henry counties.  The debate is described in a 10/25/16 column by Bill Cochran, outdoors writer for the Roanoke Times: Anglers and paddlers differ over Smith River management.

Appomattox River Dam Removal, Farm Ponds Captured in a Young Writer’s Essay, and More Available in July 23, 2014, Outdoor Report from Va. Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries

The July 23, 2014, “Outdoor Report” from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) in now available at

Each edition of the Outdoor Report is full of information on fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, boating, and other outdoor activities.  The sections of the 7/23/14 report are listed below, with hyperlinks to go to the individual items.

Storm Surge Maps by FEMA, plus Other Floodplain-related Topics, to be Covered at October 17, 2013, Workshop by Virginia Floodplain Management Association in Fredericksburg

On October 17, 2013, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Virginia Floodplain Management Association will hold a workshop on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) re-mapping for coastal storm surges.  The workshop will also include information on recent changes in Virginia at the departments of Environmental Quality and of Conservation and Recreation affecting floodplain management, dam safety, erosion and sediment control, and stormwater management.  For more information, visit; or contact Don Rissmeyer at or (757) 363-6208.

Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Area Water News Headlines Sampler for August 24-August 30, 2013: Continued Dolphin Deaths, Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid and Blackside Dace, CAFO Regulation Lawsuit, Zinc from Mine Waste along New River Tributary, Wildwood State Park Plan, Magmatic Moon Water, and More

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories in Virginia (or nearby or related to Virginia) from the period August 24-30, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 9/1/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life
Dead dolphin found on KI [Kent Island, Md.], The Queen Anne’s County (Md.) News, 8/30/13; and Virginia dolphin deaths spike in August mass die-offs continue, Daily Press, 8/28/13.  August was the peak month for the higher-than-normal levels of dead dolphins found in Virginia and other Atlantic coast states during summer 2013.  A virus is suspected as the cause of the deaths.  This item was previously in the Grouper’s headline posts on 8/11/13 and 8/23/13. Here are earlier articles:  Federal cuts threaten team dealing with dolphin crisis, Virginian-Pilot, 8/23/13; Dolphin deaths haven’t hurt Virginia Beach tours, Virginian-Pilot, 8/19/13; Dolphin die-off stretches Virginia Aquarium resources, WVEC 13 (Norfolk Va.) TV, 8/19/13; Virus a suspect in dolphin strandings along bay, Virginian-Pilot, 8/2/13; and Dolphin deaths up in Washington region, Washington Post, 8/6/13.

Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Likely Harmed Threatened Kentucky Fish Species, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 8/28/13.  Recently published research from scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that federally threatened Blackside Dace were damaged by water-quality impacts from a spill of hydraulic fracturing fluids in Kentucky in 2007.  The only known populations of this fish species are in the Cumberland River basin in Kentucky and Tennessee and in the Powell River basin in Virginia.  The research was published in a Southeastern Naturalist issue (Volume 12, Special Issue 4) on Blackside Dace, available online at

Laws and Regulations
Environmental, animal rights groups sue EPA for dropping plan to gather livestock farm data, Associated Press, as published in Washington Post, 8/28/13.  On August 28, 2013, the Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, the Humane Society, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement sued the U.S. EPA, alleging that the agency acted unlawfully when in July 2012 it withdrew a proposed regulation requiring information from large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on animal numbers and other details related to regulation of CAFOs under the federal Clean Water Act.

Mining Waste Management
Indian Creek Discharge, National Committee for the New River, 8/29/13.  Heavy rains in early 2013 led to increased levels of zinc in surface water runoff from a former mine site (closed in 1981) on Indian Creek, a New River tributary near Austinville in Wythe County.  Since 1994, the site has been under a state enforcement order to remove mining tailings, and significant progress has been made over the years to remove the materials.  But the 2013 rainfall created a new drainage channel through which runoff from the tailings was flowing without any treatment.  The Virginia departments of Environmental Quality and of Mines, Minerals and Energy met with the property owners in late August to establish a plan for remediating the drainage issues that led to the increased zinc discharges this year.  Later news account, added 9/20/13: Wythe company cleaning up environmental mess, WDBJ-TV Roanoke, 9/16/13.

State Parks
Widewater State Park Presented as Top Priority along Potomac River, Potomac Local, 8/29/13.  On August 27, 2013, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) presented the proposed master plan for Widewater State Park, a new park to be located on 1,100 acres between the Potomac River and Aquia Creek in Stafford County.  DCR’s three-phase plan would cost an estimated $43 million.  The plan is to be presented to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors on September 11.

Updated model to aid in hurricane evacuation plans, The Washington Post, 8/25/13.  During the Atlantic tropical storm season (June 1-November 30) in 2013, the National Hurricane Center is developing and using better computer models, run on faster computers, to improved its ability to predict storm surge, one of the most dangerous coastal aspects of tropical storms.  The Center also is changing its forecasts from feet above normal high-tide level to depth above ground level.

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – Dams
$3.57 Million Grant Targets Patapsco River’s Bloede Dam, (Ellicott City Md.), 8/26/13.  A grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s (NOAA) Restoration Center to the non-profit organization American Rivers will help fund removal of Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River in Patapsco Valley State Park, west of Baltimore, Maryland.  Information from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on the Bloede Dam project is available online at

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Md. Withdraws Emergency Status Of Fertilizer Rules, Associated Press, 8/26/13; and New MD index to more closely look at phosphorus’ route to water, Bay Journal, 8/27/13.  Maryland is developing a new method for determining when soils have excessive phosphorus levels and therefore when manure applications should be reduced or curtailed.  The Bay Journal article gives detail on the issue of phosphorus and water quality generally).

Out of This World
Scientists Detect Magmatic Water on Moon’s Surface, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 8/26/13.  In the August 25, 2013, edition of the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, scientists reported that NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper had detected magmatic water, that is, water originating deep within the interior of the moon.