Study Says Rapidan Dam is Not in Danger of Failing, But It’s Future is Still Uncertain

Facing an uncertain future, the Rapidan Dam isn’t in any danger of falling down on its own.

A recent study by an independent consultant found no potential for failure of the dam, build in the early 1900’s.  However, the study did find that the dam is no longer suitable to be operated as a hydropower facility.

The hydro facility of the county owned dam was heavily damaged by flooding in 2019 and hasn’t been able to generate power in the area since.

The county board has been weighing whether to repair the dam, at a cost of about $15 million, as well as ongoing maintenance costs, or to remove it, which would cost around $82 million and take a decade to deconstruct.

The removal process would also involve re-establishing the river and replacing the County Road 9 bridge south of the dam.

Dam removal would not require continued ongoing maintenance costs to the county and would open the stretch of river up to potential for additional recreational activities in the area.  One of the big costs of removal would be to remove and properly dispose of more than a century of silt that had settled behind the dam.

The latest report said that if any silt is removed upstream of the dam in the future, the county would need to do it in a way that would ensure the dam’s stability.

The repair study included what would need to be done to return hydropower, as well as robust repairs for the downstream apron and other issues.

A survey of the public commissioned by the county was released last year.  Overall, 69% of responses were in favor of repairing the dam, 18% were in favor of removing the dam and 14% said they would support either decision.