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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Pigg River Dam removal nearly complete
The structure was built in the 1920s for the town’s water treatment plant
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Contractors hired by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service began the demolition process on the Pigg River Dam near the Franklin County Veterans’ Memorial Park in Rocky Mount.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Crews contracted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have demolished the low-head dam on the Pigg River, eliminating a dangerous hydraulic that presented a hazard to boaters and anglers.

The lead contractor, Shenandoah Streamworks, started work Monday, creating an access ramp to get heavy equipment to the dam. That access point will remain, giving the public better, safer access to the Pigg River after the dam removal work is complete, according to Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins.

That access point, which will have a covered surface, creates an additional removal area for canoes and kayaks, Hankins said. It will also be used by equipment to make repairs to the veterans' park stream bank on Old Furnace Creek, separate work that is expected to begin in mid-to-late 2014.

The critical concern for the Town of Rocky Mount is public safety, Hankins said.

"We have a lot of people who use the river for a wide variety of recreational purposes," said Town Manager James Ervin. "We want that use to be safe, and as long as we can take reasonable measures to make it so, we should."

Built in the 1920s to hold water for the original Rocky Mount water treatment plant, the dam became obsolete in 1981 when the town built and opened a new water plant on the Blackwater River. The old plant and land were sold to Donnie Hutcherson, who used it for selling, storing and repairing vehicles before selling it back to the town in 2003 for its use as a backup water withdrawal site.

The town contracted to demolish the old plant in 2004, paving the way for the November 2005 opening of the Franklin County Veterans' Memorial Park.

Shenandoah installed coffer dams, silt fences and other control devices over Monday and Tuesday, and began work to demolish the dam Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, much of the dam was gone, hauled away from the site in dump trucks.

Shenandoah's work is being monitored on-site by U.S. Fish & Wildlife to ensure it takes appropriate measures to protect the Roanoke logperch, an endangered species which makes its home in the Pigg River, Hankins said.

After two drowning deaths at the Blackwater River Dam in 2009, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approached the town with an offer to remove the unused Pigg River Dam, which had similar hazards to the Blackwater dam. Unlike the Blackwater dam, the town could not fix the Pigg River Dam by stacking rocks at the base to remove the hydraulic.

"The Roanoke logperch continues to have an effect on our development efforts around the Pigg River watershed," said Hankins. "The offer from the federal government to bear most of the costs for removing the Pigg River Dam saved the town a tremendous amount of money, while making the area between the veterans' park and Lynch Park much safer."

"This is a federal project with limited assistance from the town," said Ervin. "We appreciate the efforts of Fish & Wildlife to help create a safer stream within the town limits."

While the Pigg River's course remains and the new channel is starting to reveal itself, the removal of the dam this week left visible trees and mud, which were previously under the water line.

"We expected the mud and debris," Ervin said. "Over the next couple of years, routine flooding will return the Pigg River to its natural channel. Vegetation will grow to cover the banks of the river, and any part of the scour hole not filled as part of the demolition will fill by flooding."

Shenandoah will install boulders produced by the Pigg River Bridge construction in the river in an effort to slow stream flow near the veterans' park and enhance the park's ambient sound with the sound of flowing water.

"By the end of next summer, the appearance of the area between Lynch Park and the veterans' park will look much more natural," said Ervin. "We hope to see many more people taking advantage of the recreational opportunities around the site."

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