Fishermen who have been casting lines for years off of a pedestrian bridge on Dike 3 at Lake Anna are about to lose their access.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries posted a sign last week announcing that it will remove the bridge soon. It was installed in the mid-1980s, but came to be seen as a liability after a six-year-old Richmond girl fell off the bridge and drowned in May 2013.
The location of Dike 3, on Moody Town Road, is where warm water from Dominion Energy’s waste heat treatment facility encounters cold water on the main body of the lake. The temperature difference causes a strong undercurrent, creating dangerous conditions for anyone in the water.
“The facility’s design does not meet current safety standards,” agency officials said in a prepared statement. “DGIF analyzed potential replacements for the current catwalk but was unable to identify a financially feasible alternative that would sufficiently address safety concerns and meet current design standards.”
Paige Pearson, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said the decision to close the bridge was made by Executive Director Ryan Brown soon after he assumed his position in July.
After Asa Gayle’s death in 2013, the state added cross-webbed metal fencing between the catwalk’s rails to try to prevent a similar incident in the future.
Gayle’s family later sued Dominion Energy, claiming the company was liable since the nuclear plant’s operations cause the undercurrent. Dominion argued the state was responsible, because it operates the pedestrian bridge under a lease agreement. The parties later agreed to a $5 million settlement, with the state paying $4 million and Dominion $1 million, according to a published report.
Jim Hemby, who operates Lake Anna Striper Guide Service, said he was not surprised by the decision to close access to pedestrians. He recalled an acquaintance who died when he fell off one of the wing dams adjacent to the bridge about 15 years ago.
“It’s always been an issue down there,” he said. “The fence doesn’t keep anybody in.”
Pearson said her agency had concerns related to the fence and the concrete walkway, which had deteriorated in recent years.
On a recent Saturday, one fisherman was sitting on the bridge, while a friend cast from the shore nearby. They had parked their truck in the state’s lot next to the bridge.
Pearson said fishermen will continue to have access to the parking lot, except for a period of a few days while the pedestrian bridge is removed. Once parked, visitors can fish off of various points along the shoreline near the bridge.
They won’t be allowed to fish while standing on the road itself. A Virginia Department of Transportation sign forbids fishing from the bridge.