Fawn Lake Dam

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What good is waterfront property when there’s no water?  In the winter of 2015, the residents of Fawn Lake in Spotsylvania County, VA found out.  Their recreational lake’s water level began falling when the dam’s low-level drain became stuck in the open position.  Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were released downstream.  The water level of the lake began to fall dramatically.  As the situation developed, residents were unsure whether their boats would be floating on water or sitting in the mud for weeks to come.  Fortunately, the community association had an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place for just such an event.

The importance of having an EAP in case of a dam failure is essential to the safety of a community.  A dam retains water for a specified reason, and is classified on a scale of Low Hazard to High Hazard based on their hazard potential.  Fawn Lake is a High Hazard dam that was created to form a recreational lake for the use of the community association.  Fawn Lake succeeded in keeping its community safe by developing an EAP.  It’s crucial for a High Hazard dam to have a planned course of action in case of a malfunction or failure.

ECS Mid-Atlantic, LLC is the engineering consulting company retained by the owner of the Fawn Lake Dam. The firm coordinated with emergency management services and the community to develop a plan of action in case of a dam breach.  When the problem emerged, the owner knew to call the engineers at ECS for help.  ECS worked with the association’s contractor to develop a both a temporary, short-term fix, as well as a permanent solution to address the issue.

Some state governments offer grants to encourage dam owners to maintain the integrity of their dams, as well as to ensure the safety of the public. ECS assisted the owner in filing applications for government grants that would significantly reduce the total cost of repairing the dam. 

As the water levels of the lake began to rise to normal, so did the spirits of the community.  Fawn Lake was recently named “Best Maintained Dam” by the Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association (VLWA) and serves as a precedent for dam safety.

This blog was written by Sean O’Hara, an ECS Mid-Atlantic, LLC Intern. 

Photo Courtesy of the Fawn Lake Community Association.