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West Virginia's Jennings Randolph Lake: The benefits and the risks – WV News

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are stressing the importance of recognizing the benefits – and the risks – of living near Jennings Randolph Lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are stressing the importance of recognizing the benefits – and the risks – of living near Jennings Randolph Lake.
JENNINGS RANDOLPH LAKE, W.Va. (WV News) — May 31 was Dam Safety Awareness Day, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, is stressing the importance of recognizing not only the benefits provided by Jennings Randolph Lake (JRL), but also the risks of living near the dam.
Since becoming operational in 1981, JRL has prevented an estimated $400 million in potential flood damage to communities downstream. Although JRL reduces the risk of flooding to downstream communities, it does not eliminate the risk of flooding.
Many people who live downstream of JRL are completely unaware of the potential hazard. The most likely scenario that could result in downstream flooding would be a high-volume release of water during significant storm events. Bloomington, Luke, Westernport, Piedmont, Keyser, Cumberland and adjacent communities are in the most immediate danger in the event of a flood.
In order to provide the dam safety community, as well as the public, a better understanding of USACE’s efforts to reduce dam risk and promote dam safety through awareness, JRL has launched a Dam Risk Communication webpage that provides risk education as well as relevant resources for those who live near the project: https://go.usa.gov/xJTEz.  
The website includes general information on JRL dam’s mission, functionality and inspections, relevant links and resources, Q&As, regional Emergency Management Agency contact information and tips for how to best prepare your home and family in case of downstream flooding.  
“Public safety is the Army Corps’ top priority,” said Ken Fernandez, Jennings Randolph Lake operations project manager. “JRL is authorized for multiple purposes, including recreation that we all have come to know and love. However, we must keep in mind that its primary purpose is flood risk management and with that comes risks and potential hazards to downstream communities. Dam safety is a shared responsibility, and we want those nearby to know their risk, know their role, and take action.”
National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs  May 31 of each year to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. The dam failure resulted in the loss of more than 2,200 lives and was the worst dam failure in the history of the United States. National Dam Safety Awareness Day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility for dam safety, as well as to provide information on what steps can be taken to prevent future catastrophic dam failures.
Know the risks of living near Jennings Randolph Lake
Although JRL reduces the risk of flooding to downstream communities, it does not eliminate the risk of flooding. Many people who live downstream of JRL are completely unaware of the potential hazard.
The most likely scenario that could result in downstream flooding would be a high-volume release of water during significant storm events. There are also unlikely, but far more devastating scenarios involving breach of the dam that would produce significant flooding. This could involve situations such as: a rare, extreme rainfall event resulting in water flowing over the earthen dam, eroding the dam, and leading to a breach of the dam, or; unexpected behavior of seepage through the dam eroding soil from within the embankment leading to a breach.
If a breach were to occur, an uncontrolled surge of water would flow out of the reservoir, flooding downstream communities. Bloomington, Luke, Westernport, Piedmont, Keyser, Cumberland and adjacent communities would be in the direct path, and other communities along the North Branch Potomac River would also be impacted.
In any of the scenarios described above, the downstream floodwater would be swift and deep, overflowing levees, destroying buildings and key infrastructure, and those caught unaware and/or unable to evacuate could perish. In the less likely dam breach scenarios, the water depth, property damage, and lives lost would likely be far greater.
Prepare your home and family
Flood risk management is a shared responsibility. From federal, state, and local government to the individual level, we all have a role to play to reduce flood risk. Here are some ways you can proactively reduce risk:
▪ Inform your family of dam failure flood risks, and make sure each family member knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
▪ Seal basement walls with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
▪ Keep valued possessions and important papers on an upper level of your home or in a safety deposit box.
▪ Prepare an emergency kit.
▪ Know your evacuation routes.
If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
▪ Listen to the radio or television for information.
▪ Be aware that dam failure or operational flooding can occur. Move to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for instructions to move. Get to high ground if flooding is imminent.
▪ Follow the measures stated by local emergency managers.
If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
▪ Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
▪ Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
About Jennings Randolph Lake
Tucked between Garrett County, Maryland, and Mineral County, West Virginia, JRL stretches along 5.5 miles of spectacular countryside on the North Branch of the Potomac River. The JRL project (originally called Bloomington Lake) consists of a rolled earth and rockfill dam, rising 296 feet from the lake bottom. The dam, dike, and spillway extends 2,130 feet across the valley. At its conservation pool, the lake is approximately 6.6 miles long with a surface area of 915 acres.
Project purposes include flood risk management, water quality, low-flow augmentation, water supply, and recreation.
Recreation opportunities at Jennings Randolph Lake include boat ramps for fishing and boating, beach and picnic areas, and the Robert W. Craig campground. Whitewater releases are made each spring from the dam’s outlet works.

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