New Vegetation Starting Along Maury

VDGIF Official Gives Jordans Point Update To Council

Seedlings are sprouting, people are wading and millrace water is at least trickling two months after the removal of the Jordans Point dam.

Louise Finger, project director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, related the present state of the river to Lexington City Council at its meeting on Aug. 1.

In early July, both banks along the river were seeded with a “native recurring seed mix,” taking root in the soil over which the water once flowed, she said.

Pointing to a picture of the new vegetation, Finger said the sprouts are “a million tree seedlings.” She said the seedlings speak to the ecological history of the soil that is now exposed.

Asked to what extent the river was seeded, Finger said “every inch of the bank - all the way up to Furrs Mill.”

Finger said this type of seeding and diligent maintenance by landowners along the river will help to combat the growth of invasive plant species.

As the river’s water flow shrinks, Finger said it offers tranquility for the public to wade into the water and fish.

“It’s neat to see a lot of people accessing the river,” said Finger. “There are kids fishing in the area that was once off limits with danger signs.”

Local residents are now able to access parts the river by wading without a kayak or canoe. However, there is still a stretch of approximately three-fourths of a mile from the boat access point up toward the newly exposed bedrock ripples for flat water recreation, according to Finger.

Simultaneously, expectations and concerns about water flow into the millrace after dam removal are being realized. From her records taken on July 10, Finger said there is not water flowing through the millrace, which she said was a consequence acknowledged prior to the dam removal work.

Even so, a trickle of water continues over the historic timbers within the millrace.

“I was heartened to see there is enough hydrologic connection between the river, groundwater and millrace that there is water in the millrace,” continued Finger. “It is a trickle, but it is moving and there is still water in some portion of this timber. As long as they are saturated, even if they are not under 2 feet of water, the water will preserve them as best as we could hope.”

The timbers she referred to are those of the old gauge dock on the floor of the millrace near its eastern end.

To address the impact on the millrace, a memorandum of agreement was developed.

“The MOA was that we would excavate the sediment in that area to enable water to go in the millrace as often as possible when the river provides that water,” said Finger.

The contractor excavated the area above the millrace until he reached bedrock. “The millrace is as open as it can be given the bedrock,” said Finger. “When the river goes up, water will come in there. But, this is the current condition.”

The total project cost, excluding VDGIF and Lexington staff time, is approximately $200,000. Approximately $166,000 was spent on the deconstruction and engineering, while a large portion of the latter was spent on preserving historic resources.

“A lot of energy and resources has gone into historic resources part,” said Finger. “We are trying to collect as much documentation of that as we can.”

The two millstones recovered from the dam work were “one of the coolest parts” of the history discovered in the river, she said.

Posing a question that came from a Lexington citizen, Mayor Frank Friedman asked Finger about the “prospects of a process of adding a dam much like the MSA [Maury Service Authority] uptake upstream that is very low and serves a purpose in order to facilitate the millrace?”

Though she said she is not “right person” to speak to this possibility, Finger said that there would be many obstacles to construction of this sort of dam.

She said the creation of a new dam would require more height than the example mentioned. She also said it would involve setbacks such as extensive permit requirements, willing participation from landowners on the other side of the river and mitigation costs in addition to engineering and construction costs.

The next steps for Finger and her team following the dam removal involve circulating, fixing and utilizing historic resources from the dam, designing and installing interpretive signage and vegetation planting.

Friedman and Straughan thanked Finger and VDGIF for their work on the dam. Friedman also said he hopes that the city will be able to utilize the expertise of VDGIF as the master plan for Jordans Point is devised.

“From the actual removal of the dam, you all did a fantastic job,” said Straughan. “Thank you for all you did and it looks great. I think it provides a lot of opportunity for our citizens.”

“As we were struggling with the process and emotions were running high,” said Friedman, “of course one thing we knew would be constant was that once the work was done, we would still have a river.”

“An amazing river,” added Finger.

The News-Gazette

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