By Katie Demeria
BASYE -- A local group is attempting to raise funds to restore the waters of Lake Laura while the water is temporarily drained during dam renovation.
Friends of Lake Laura was formed in November 2013, according to Treasurer Douglas Woodward, when plans to drain the lake were confirmed.
Woodward said the work will include dredging and silt removal in an attempt to remove 40 years of sediment that has naturally built up in the lake, impacting its vegetation and water quality.
Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River have taken some water samples from the lake over recent years, Woodward said. They have seen increased levels of different bacteria that could impact the quality of the lake and how much oxygen is present in the water.
"Because of the higher levels that have been indicated, it would be good to stay on top of this, and with dam replacement effort, it's the perfect time to do it," he said. "It's so much harder to do dredging work when it is full of water."
Bryce Resort, which owns the lake, has earmarked $50,000 to help fund the silt removal effort, according to General Manager Rob Schwartz.
Friends of Lake Laura is attempting to raise $75,000, as the entire process will likely cost $125,000.
Crews will start draining the lake shortly after Labor Day, according to Schwartz.
"You can only draw down 6 inches per day," he said. "It will take about three weeks or so to lower, and then we'll start working on the gates on the riser, so while it's draining, that's when we'll do our sediment removal."
The dam must be renovated because Virginia changed its rules of maximum flood requirements five years ago, Schwartz said. After those requirements were put in place, 50 dams across the state were in need of renovations.
"The goal is that by spring of 2015, the lake will be refilled and ready to go," he said.
The entire renovation will cost about $70 million.
Officials with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fishers has lifted the regulations placed on fishing in Lake Laura to encourage anglers to remove some of the fish living there before the dam is entirely drained.
Creel limits and size restrictions on fish harvest have been lifted until the end of the year.
District Fisheries Biologist Brad Fink said crews are also working to remove some types of fish and transport them to a different lake.
Some bass have been moved to Lake Shenandoah near Harrisonburg, Fink said, which could benefit the fish there in the long run -- adding a different predator could knock back a smaller population that has been growing too rapidly.
"Others will get flushed downstream," Fink said of the remaining fish in Lake Laura.
Those interested in donating to Friends of Lake Laura's cleanup effort can visit their website at www.friendsoflakelaura.org or drop checks off at the Bryce Resort front desk.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org