Tucked between Garrett County, Maryland, and Mineral County, West Virginia, Jennings Randolph Lake (JRL) stretches along 5.5 miles of spectacular countryside on the North Branch of the Potomac River. The area is renowned for its unspoiled wilderness and natural beauty. The lake provides a sanctuary for countless birds, animals and fish where nature comes first and having fun is a close second.
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 2130 feet across the valley. At its conservation pool, the lake is approximately 6.6 miles long with a surface area of 915 acres. The project became operational in 1981. 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. Click here for more info on recreation at JRL.
What are the risks associated with living near or downstream of JRL?
Although Jennings Randolph Dam reduces the risk of flooding to downstream communities, it does not eliminate the risk of flooding. The most likely scenario that could result in downstream flooding would be a high-volume release of water during significant storm events. To maintain the structural integrity of the dam when the water level in the reservoir gets high, the spillway releases water to the North Branch Potomac River. To maintain the structural integrity of the dam when the water level in the reservoir gets high, large releases may need to be made into the North Branch Potomac River. The amount of water being released could be great enough to cause or increase flooding in downstream communities. This scenario could create conditions similar to how the river might behave if the dam did not exist.
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 are in the most immediate danger in the event of a flood. 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.