- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Swimmers, fishermen and paddlers who visit the artificial lake on the Rappahannock River above Embrey Dam soon will have to seek another location for summer fun.

Beginning in mid-August, the three-quarter-mile stretch of river will be closed to the public for more than two years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin dredging silt from the bottom to prepare for removing the dam.

The dam is being taken down to allow migratory fish to return to the upper river and its tributaries. The dredging is the first step in the project.

John Garman, co-owner of the Virginia Outdoor Center, said he’s not worried about his business, which rents canoes and kayaks and sponsors river-related recreational activities.

“It’s not really going to affect us,” he said. “The bulk of our business is upriver.”

And most people don’t like paddling near the dam, Mr. Garman said.

The affected area, from the dam upstream to the Interstate 95 bridge, will be closed to the public by the time dredging begins Aug. 18. The Corps closed the section because of the heavy equipment that will be in and around it, a standard practice at other dam-removal projects around the country.

The close will affect fishermen who stalk smallmouth bass along the shoreline when the water levels drop, and the swimmers who prefer that stretch of river because the water is very smooth and there’s a fairly sandy bottom.

Paddlers passing through will have to take out much farther upstream to get around the dam.

Two of the most popular areas for paddling, swimming, wading and fishing — downstream from the dam along Riverside Drive and upstream at Mott’s Run — won’t be affected by the closure.

Gene Clore, owner of Clore Brothers outfitters, said the long-term benefit of the dam removal will be more migratory fish upstream that will bring more fishermen there.

Fly fisherman Smith Coleman, chairman of Friends of the Rappahannock, agreed that the closure is not a big deal.

“We can tolerate not being able to paddle all the way through for a couple years, given what we’re gaining,” he said, also noting there are plenty of areas people can visit for recreation.

What’s important, he said, is that the Rappahannock will be far more valuable when the dam is gone in early 2006.

“What we’ll have here is unheard of on the East Coast, a free-flowing river from the mountains to the sea,” he said.

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