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‘Major changes’ at Rocky Pen Run



Logging and burning is being done in the site set for Stafford County’s Rocky Pen Run Reservoir, but it’s the future road impacts that worry some residents.

Set to open in late spring 2014, the reservoir could one day hold 5.3 billion gallons of water.

Much work is left to be done for the county’s project off U.S. 17, and neighbors learned that some of that will directly impact their day-to-day activities during the next year or so.

At a town hall meeting at Rocky Run Elementary School on Thursday night, Hartwood Supervisor Gary Snellings told about two dozen people that “major changes” are now under way around the reservoir.

Project manager Bryon Counsell outlined what’s next for the county’s largest public works project.

Ongoing work includes clearing of the 500 acres of wooded land, which was acquired over many years.

Stumps will be cut as close to the ground as possible, Counsell said, so no trees will stick out of the water. At its fullest point, the water will be 226 feet. It could be 2020 before the entire reservoir is filled, leading some to question if the water’s edges will be unattractive.

“It looks good on paper, but my concern is, will it hold water with the sandy soils?” asked former Supervisor Joe Brito.

Controlled burning, regulated by the fire marshal, is also being done. Residents may see smoke and ash when the winds change.

“With the clearing, you’re going to be seeing lots of trucks,” Counsell said.

The logging trucks are limited to leaving and entering the site between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., so as not to interfere during rush hour in the already high-traffic area.

Counsell asked residents to contact him if they see the contractor’s trucks at other times. “We’re going to be watching them very, very closely,” he said.

Traffic-control crews will be set up in the area as needed, to make it easier for tractor–trailers to navigate.

Future Road Changes

Changes to traffic flow will increase at the beginning of next year, lasting through the fall. For example, Greenbank Road will at times be reduced to one lane as new pipes are installed beneath the road.

But it’s the closure of the middle of Rocky Run Road, which will be flooded over, that causes more concerns about traffic. Two cul-de-sacs will be created at the points where the reservoir replaces the road.

Counsell said the earliest this will happen would be November of next year, but that could be pushed back to 2014 depending on the progress of the project.

Weeks of warnings will be issued.

Stafford Lakes Village residents worry about more cars driving along the 25-mph streets in the neighborhood. Some said that the area is already seeing increased traffic with more development nearby, and that the closure of Rocky Run Road will turn their residential roads into shortcuts.

Part of that problem, said several people at the town hall and at one in February, would be the lack of a stoplight at the intersection of Holly Corner Road and U.S. 17, an already-congested area that could be made worse with the partial closure of Rocky Run Road.

Instead, neighbors suspect drivers will travel to the intersection that has a stoplight, where Walmart is located, using Stafford Lakes as a cut-through, on Country Manor and Morningmist drives.

Marcie Parker of VDOT said a study requested by the county earlier this year concluded that the Holly Corner Road intersection didn’t warrant a stoplight at this time. Another study will be done once Rocky Run Road is closed, she said.

Mark Lewis, who lives on Rocky Run, worries about increased distances from fire and rescue stations, and the higher insurance rates that would bring.

“It’s just going to be a catastrophe with the roads being like they are,” Lewis said.

Dam Work Progresses

The 130-foot dam upstream of the mouth of Rocky Pen Run, north of the Rappahannock River, is 70 percent complete. Work has involved moving a half-million cubic yards of dirt to fill up a massive hole to a 68-foot level.

“It’s really taking shape,” Counsell said.

But it’s not the stream that’s being dammed to create the lake. The dam will straddle Rocky Pen Run, allowing the stream to flow beneath it.

Pumps will instead bring water uphill from the Rappahannock River in what’s called an “off stream” reservoir, similar to Motts Run Reservoir on the Spotsylvania side of the river.

The water-treatment plant, which will filter the water from the reservoir before sending it to users, is slightly behind schedule.

Counsell said no trespassing is allowed in the reservoir area, citing concerns that trees could fall on their own. Dumping of debris is also prohibited.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975