Thursday, June 13, 2024

City project to make dam improvements at Lake Maury has been in the works for six years. Here’s why

Underneath Lions Bridge at the Mariners Museum and Park is a functioning dam (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Mariners Museum and Park)
Underneath Lions Bridge at the Mariners Museum and Park is a functioning dam (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Mariners Museum and Park)

NEWPORT NEWS — Hidden underneath the iconic Lions Bridge at the Mariners Museum and Park is a dam separating Lake Maury from the James River.

And improvements to bring the dam up to date with the Department of Conservation and Recreation Dam Safety Division regulations has taken at least six years, possibly more.

It’s purpose? To prevent nearby flooding.

“The dam has over toppled I think twice in the last 12 to 15 years” said Howard Hoege III, president of the Mariners Museum and Park. “There is a lot more development so there is a lot more water running into it.”

Hoege III said the dam was built in 1931 and the city has been working on designs to prevent stormwater runoff from the dam.

“I think it’s probably a little premature to really dive into what the whole thing is because right now, we got a problem,” Hoege III said. “The problem is the dam has been over topped twice, we just need to make sure the dam is sort of stable and sound in the future and right now, it’s kinda when we are exploring all of the answers.”

Museum officials said the museum is not paying for any part of the Lions Bridge Dam project. Lions Bridge is part of our 550-acre, privately-owned park, but this is completely a city project to make the Dam compliant according to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

What’s up with the project?

“The dam does not meet current Department of Conservation and Recreation standards,” said Kim Lee, spokeswoman for the city. “We are in the design phase.”

Lee said there is not an immediate concern for the dam failing and the city is just keeping up with the standards.

“We will have a public meeting about the project, sometime this fall, it hasn’t been set up yet,” Lee said. “We don’t think we’ll have to close the road.”

Construction will take about a year-and-a-half and start in the second half of 2020. The project cost which includes design, feasibility studies and construction is roughly $9 million.

The Lake Maury Spillway Improvements plan started in 2013 (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the city of Newport News)
The Lake Maury Spillway Improvements plan started in 2013 (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the city of Newport News)

When asked why the project is still in the design phase after six years, Lee said the design itself takes a significant amount of time.

“When you have large projects like this, they just take time,” Lee said, adding there’s nothing that has delayed it. “For large projects to take 6-7 or 8 years is not unusual.”

For example, she noted, the initial concept for the Middle Ground Boulevard extension, now known as City Center Boulevard, actually started in 1984 and it was dedicated in 2015.

“Initial conceptions to figuring out what the project is going to entail, the scope of the project…stakeholders, meeting DCR requirements––– all of that takes time,” Lee said.

To date, the $607,776.35 has been paid to Arcadis-U.S. Inc., according to the project’s website.

Two design phases on the city website?

Lee said it is to come up with how to fix the problem ––– preliminary work.

It is not clear when the DCR started working with the city on the Lake Maury Improvements plan and Lee declined to give WYDaily an exact date.

“I’m not going to be able to give you an exact date, since it was six years ago,” Lee said.

It is not clear how long the dam has not been up-to-date on proper certification.

“DCR’s initial contact with the city on this project was in 2013,” Julie Buchanan, spokeswoman for DCR, wrote in an email. “We have no record of a conditional certificate for this dam.”

When asked about the project, Buchanan, said the department’s last correspondence with Kathie Ingle, the project manager, was in February of this year.

“We haven’t been in touch with [them for] several months,” she said.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

Related Articles

MORE FROM AUTHOR