THAXTON, Va. -

For more than 60 years, a small pond sat at the edge of Bob McMillan's family farm.

"It was right here along the road," said McMillan.  "A lot of people would fish here and a lot of times the fire department would stop here to get water."

No one is using the pond now, because it doesn't exist anymore.

The water drained out last year, when the culvert downstream started collapsing.

"Over a period of a couple of days, the pond emptied out," McMillan said.

The culvert was a victim of old age.  It was built in the mid-1800's by a railroad company.

VDOT is in the process of constructing a new culvert, but McMillan's pond remains empty.

"I would like to put it back," McMillan said.  "It's certainly a valuable part of my property."

To do that he'll have to build a new spillway that ties into the culvert.  Design plans have to be approved by VDOT.

"Any time a private property owner works on our right-of-way or builds something that adjoins our right-of-way, they have to get a permit to ensure that there is no damage to the Virginia system of highways," said Jason Bond, public affairs manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Salem district.

If the pond causes damage, VDOT would need money to pay for it.  McMillan could have to pay an annual fee, known as a surety bond, to cover the potential cost.

"They've never given me an exact amount and over time I'm sure the cost would go up," said McMillan.

McMillian believes VDOT is being unreasonable, but Bond says the request is not unique.

"There are continuous sureties throughout the state," Bond said.  "Probably somewhere under 100, but it does happen throughout the state."

McMillan has already spent $10,000 of his own money to design a new spillway for his pond that would tie into the culvert.  He still has an opportunity to appeal VDOT's ruling about the annual fee.

"I'm left with a real dilemma as far as what am I going to do and how can I afford to do it?" said McMillan.