BRIDGETON — City officials say the municipality will get nearly $3 million in federal funds to help finance repairs to the washed-out raceway dam in City Park.

The repairs will result in an improved system to replace the dam that gave way during heavy rains in August 2001.

The weather event caused Sunset Lake to drain, leaving the city without a major part of its recreational activities. The situation also left homeowners living along the lake’s shoreline with depreciated property values and views of overgrown weeds and grass where there was once scenic water.

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Months of “intensive review and discussion” resulted in the Federal Emergency Management Agency giving the city about $2.9 million, Mayor Albert Kelly said. The FEMA funds will add to $1.5 million in insurance money and more than $973,000 in city funds to finance the nearly $5.4 million project, he said.

The city’s engineering firm, Fralinger Engineering, has completed all the plans for, and received all the necessary permits and approvals to move forward with, the raceway dam project, local officials said.

The project includes raising the level of the raceway, which is a sort of drainage system that runs between Sunset Lake and the Cohansey River; creating a cutoff dam at the north end of the raceway; and providing a spillway to control water level at the dam, Kelly said. The repair work should be completed in about 10 months, following acceptance of all construction bids, city officials said.

Contractors have already cleared the raceway of debris, including a number of fallen trees that floodwaters deposited in the structure during the August 2011 storm.

Sunset Lake will begin to fill slowly once the work is finished, city officials said.

“We are very pleased with the outcome on what has arguably been a long, though ultimately fruitful process, to get the raceway restored to its rightful place in our City Park,” Kelly said. “Our residents can (eventually) enjoy this unique and historically significant feature again.”

Sunset Lake is located on the border of Bridgeton and Upper Deerfield Township. The lake was for decades a focal point of Bridgeton’s extensive City Park.

The raceway was built by a father and son team in 1811. The raceway has been a feature in City Park since the Cumberland Nail Iron Works began operations in 1815.

Contact Thomas Barlas:


Been working with the Press for about 27 years.

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