Residents frustrated with Lake Chesdin management

A meeting of the Appomattox Regional Water Authority board drew a healthy crowd last week and many residents voiced concerns about the state of the lake and its management.

“The people are speaking loudly, clearly and in no uncertain terms that something needs to be done,” said Scott Wilson, a lakefront resident and member of the Lake Chesdin Environmental Protection Group.

Before the meeting, Richard Mezzatesta, who lives on Lake Chesdin, said it looked like, for some reason, the people in charge decided to drain the lake.

“They should have went to restrictions probably back in June or July,” he said. “I blame the board, and I blame [ARWA Executive Director]Chris Dawson. It’s just been mismanaged all around.”

But R.L. Dunn, who sat beside Mezzatesta, said he thought the board was “doing an OK job.”

“It’s just this is the perfect storm,” he said. “It’s hard to be prepared for something when you have three major things” – the driest year on record, the reduced flow of the water into the lake and the evaporation – hit at once. “They’ve got a tough job. I wouldn’t want it.”

The session began with a presentation by Kevin Massengill, Dinwiddie’s county administrator and a member of the ARWA board. The board heard “loud and clear” at its last meeting that there were areas it needed to review, including the Virginia Water Protection Permit and the drought response plan.

“Obviously, we believe that there’s probably some definite review that needs to take place with this,” Massengill said of the drought response plan. “The lake can drop down fairly significantly before you can actually call for triggers.”

The Sept. 16 meeting was well attended, he said, and “it seemed like a significant part of the conversation stemmed around … how much water gets released into the river.”

Based on input at the Sept. 16 meeting, the board followed up on several items, including an emergency water release waiver from the Department of Environmental Quality, a water audit and Chesterfield’s usage trends, the impacts of the 42-inch water line and the Swift Creek Reservoir System.

From June to September, Massengill said, 70 percent of the water that came into the lake was released as dictated by the water protection permit, and another 9 percent was lost to evaporation. About 20 percent was used by the member jurisdictions, he said.

On Sept. 17, DEQ modified the water protection permit to grant verbal temporary relief, he said. On Sept. 21, the agency granted further relief of 70 percent of the total inflow, he said, and on Sept. 24 it eliminated the side stream multiplier, he said. Now, the lake is able to release water on a one-to-one basis, he said.

One of the board’s short-term goals is to reopen the water protection permit, Massengill said. Citizens need to stay involved, he said, as there would be a 30-day comment period on any changes to the permit.

From April to September 2010, the Swift Creek water plant has been operating at 84 percent to 97 percent of its capacity, Massengill said. And, even with the construction of the River Road water line, Chesterfield’s average daily demand from ARWA hasn’t gone up significantly, he said.

A steady stream of residents took to the podium during the public comment period, and all expressed frustration with the situation at the lake.

“I think in our daily lives, we all think we’re prepared,” said Tom Yeager, a resident of the Eagle Cove subdivision. “Our disaster plan was tested and it failed miserably [in 2010].”

For four of the last five years, “we’ve experienced severe drops in the lake level,” he said.

“I was kind of scared today with the rain that the lake would rise and we’d forget what happened in the summer of 2010,” he said.

Scott Bradshaw, of Matoaca, said there was a big piece missing from the dialog; he hadn’t heard anyone talk about the fish, eagles and other animals that live in and around the lake.

“The upper part of the lake where the river flows in is devastated,” he said. “The wildlife has been devastated.” Bradshaw said he was a member of the Lake Chesdin Environmental Protection Group, and “we’re putting you guys on notice.”

“We expect you to be better stewards,” he said.

Barbara Williams, who worked on the lake for 37 years, said the condition of Lake Chesdin this summer was “shocking.” Why wait so long to put water restrictions into effect, and why release so much water when the water level is so low, she asked.

“I think there’s been a mismanagement of the lake, maybe not intentionally,” she said.

Comments

Water levels in Lake Chesdin

My my the residents are not happy with the water levels? Should they not remember the lake was built to provide water to the surrounding areas and not for their benefit. Why should citizens have to severely curtail their usage just so the property owners can have the level "they" want? The problem is the authority did not buy the land 1/2 mile from the waters edge and allow public access. This lake is for water for citizens. Not recreation or property value enhancement for those who live on the lake.

Facts

Ok, where is everyone getting this information about this being the driest year on record? We did have our 3rd driest summer on record as well as our hottest summer on record. We are on pace to have our warmest year ever. However, even if we did not receive anymore rainfall through the end of the year, we would only rank 5th in our driest years. Interestingly, this time last year we had over 3 inches less total rainfall year-to-date than we do this year. At our current rate we are on track to end up with total rainfall this year in the mid 30inch range. We would need to receive just over 2 inches for the rest of the year for us to even make it inside our top 10 driest years on record.

I don't understand what is so

I don't understand what is so difficult to understand about this, driest year on record, reduced water flow and greater evaporation... Doesn't that spell something out, and how does this make the job difficult, is reacting to what it spells out so hard?

It's starting to sound more like someone got caught sleeping on the job, now I can see how that could be tough, yeah...

I mean, I can tell you we've been in a drier than usual season for the past FOUR years.. And you're in charge of this thing, we're not per chance affiliating with certain water privatization interests here, are we?

This is ridiculous!

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