HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Atlantic County and Hamilton Township officials will delay until mid-April making public a report that both describes the problems affecting the Lake Lenape Dam and offers solutions.
At the same time, officials are bracing for the costs of the yet-unspecified fixes. Township Administrator Michael Jacobs said during a March 13 budget workshop that repairs would cost the township about $500,000 this year.
Since the county and township jointly own the dam, repairs apparently will cost at least $1 million this year alone. Jacobs did not elaborate during the meeting on what the costs would cover and did not return calls seeking more information.
A November Watchdog Report in The Press of Atlantic City showed the county and township repeatedly missed state-mandated inspection deadlines over the past decade and postponed repairs on problems that their own inspectors identified.
Both the county and township rejected an Open Public Records Act request Wednesday from The Press of Atlantic City seeking engineering consultant URS Corp.’s dam report.
Hamilton Township deferred to Atlantic County, the lead agency on the repairs, township Solicitor Robert Sandman wrote in a letter.
Atlantic County Counsel James F. Ferguson said the county’s engineer was reviewing the report documents and would return them to URS for them to finalize by April 15. Ferguson wrote the report would be available after that point.
The delays come after state regulators in July ruled the dam was unsafe, ordered the county to carefully monitor it and submit weekly reports, which the county has been doing, and required that Lake Lenape be lowered before heavy storms.
The state Bureau of Dam Safety & Flood Control also ordered the county to submit repair plans in September, a deadline state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine said has been extended to April 15. Considine said the dam operators have complied with the state’s other requirements.
State and federal regulators consider the dam high-hazard, meaning its collapse would cause extensive damage and likely kill at least one person. Eighteen specific at-risk properties downstream were delineated in an early-1980s survey, although the dam’s current emergency action plan states that floodwaters would affect 75 homes and a dozen commercial properties.
Contractor Agate Construction began repairs to holes in the dam and its deteriorating outflow pipes in late 2010. A March 2011 collapse scare that led to downstream residents being evacuated for several hours, however, only compounded problems and suspended work.
Atlantic County later hired URS under a $322,250 contract to review Agate’s work, provide expert testimony and make suggestions as to what should be done.
In the meantime, Agate and the county are in mediation over the dam in front of retired Superior Court Judge L. Anthony Gibson. Agate has been paid $920,110 of a $1.3 million contract. The dispute centers on who’s responsible for the the partial collapse of the coffer dam.
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