Lake Laura’s water quality gets a second chance

By Katie Demeria

In Basye, Lake Laura is getting a second chance.

The dam rehabilitation, scheduled to begin in the fall, will be the final major push in drastically improving the lake’s water quality, according to Loren Larson, chairman of the Bryce Resort Lake Committee.

The work has been going on for several years, Larson pointed out, and began when Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River reached out to the resort, offering to write up a water quality report.

“We were in support because we knew there were issues there,” Larson said.

One of the largest contributing factors to the lake’s poor water quality was a direct result of discharge from the Orkney Springs sewage water plant, Larson said.

The lake is part of Stoney Creek, which flows into the Shenandoah River’s north fork. When the Friends of the North Fork did their research, Larson said, it was successful in opening the eyes of those in Orkney Springs.

The plant worked to reduce nutrient loads from Orkney Springs from flowing into the lake, according to Larson.

“They took the sanitation line, the sewer lines in town, and they built a pipeline all the way down below the lake, and then they pumped it around the lake to the Stoney Creek Sanitary District treatment plant,” he said.

That effort meant the plant was moved downstream from the lake.

Algae blooms were hurting the lake’s quality, Larson said, as well as vegetation building in the south end. Both were fed by the nutrients being added to the lake from the plant.

The Orkney Springs plant officially went offline in 2012.

“When they found out that Orkney Springs was going to take it offline, they decided to halt testing for that year and then resume it in 2013 and see what kind of an impact it would have,” Larson said.

“In the report, it identified the fact that the water quality in the lake was going to improve because the sewage treatment plant was going offline,” he continued.

“The nutrient reduction that occurred should have a favorable effect on algae growth downstream in Stoney Creek and in Lake Laura,” the Friends of the North Fork’s report, published in January 2014, stated.

Now, the dam rehabilitation, a $7 million project taking place so the dam will meet new state guidelines, will create the prime opportunity to take the next step in drastically improving water quality.

“We’re basically going to get a do-over with the water quality,” Larson said, adding that the resort also created a lake management plan in March.

Lake Laura was originally built in 1971 in an effort to decrease erosion from Stoney Creek.

It was meant to collect sediment, and was expected to last about 100 years. But 40 years later, Larson said, the lake is only 30 percent filled.

When it is drained for dam rehabilitation, the committee, along with the Friends of Lake Laura, will start major work in removing sediment from Lake Laura. The goal is to both improve the water quality and lengthen the lake’s lifeline.

“This was a major success story,” Larson said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com