HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — A consultant hired by the owners of the Lake Lenape Dam is expected to finally lay out what needs to be done to fix the structure later this month.
State regulators in July ruled the dam was unsafe, ordered it be carefully monitored and required that Lake Lenape be lowered before heavy storms.
John Peterson, acting director for Atlantic County’s Regional Planning Department, said the report from URS Corp. would make recommendations about fixing holes that county inspectors found in 2010, as well as the status of repairs left unfinished after a 2011 scare.
Peterson said the department would make its recommendations based on the consultant’s suggestions to state dam regulators, Atlantic County freeholders, the Hamilton Township Committee and the county and township’s shared dam committee.
The dam’s state regulators have previously stressed that Lake Lenape Dam was not in danger of failure. Larry Hajna, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Tuesday the county continues to submit weekly monitoring reports showing the dam has not shifted.
Hajna said the state also is reviewing Atlantic County’s request to postpone until April 15 its permit application to repair the west embankment. The DEP’s Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control last summer initially asked the county to file its repair application last fall, but have agreed to extensions.
The township and county have jointly owned the 1879 dam and lake since the 1980s.
It is the only Atlantic County dam the National Inventory of Dams considers “high-hazard.” About 17 percent of all dams in America are classified high-hazard, meaning their failure would probably kill at least one person.
A Press of Atlantic City Watchdog Report in November showed Atlantic County and Hamilton Township repeatedly missed state-mandated inspection deadlines during the past decade, and then postponed repairs on problems their own inspectors identified.
Among other issues, Atlantic County inspectors in 2010 identified a hole in the dam behind a fish ladder that has steadily grown. It measured about 25 feet wide by 16 inches high last spring.
Agate Construction began repairs to the holes and the dam’s deteriorating outflow pipes. But a March 2011 collapse scare only compounded problems.
When part of a coffer dam designed to allow crews to fix the pipes failed, Hamilton Township police evacuated downstream neighbors for several tense hours.
Repair work has been largely suspended since because of a dispute with Agate. Peterson said Agate has been paid $920,110 of a $1.3 million contract. Agate and the county and township are in mediation over the repairs.
URS was later hired to review the previous work, provide expert testimony and make suggestions for what should be done. Peterson said URS has been paid $212,324 of a $322,250 contract.
At the dam Tuesday, a cold wind blew off the partially frozen Lake Lenape.
The large lateral hole was visible along the embankment closest to the ruins of the mill, where part of the structure appeared to have sunk. Another, much smaller hole was nearby, and tracks suggested a small animal had used it for a winter den.
On the dam, the lake water from the nearly full dam poured out of the two working control pipes into the Great Egg Harbor River. Icicles hung on the lower structure, and a small quantity of water seemed to bubble up from behind part of the coffer dam nearest the dam.
Inside the powerhouse, halfway between the dam and the mill ruins, two rusted turbines stood taller than a grown adult in opposite sides of the building. A single antiquated Westinghouse generator was between them, still connected with belts. Lake water flowed noisily beneath metal plates in the building’s corners.
The Westinghouse direct-current generator formerly powered the adjacent mill and parts of downtown Mays Landing. However, a comparison of similar-sized backup generators now for sale suggests the 30-kilowatt, 240-amp generator would provide enough current for little more than a convenience store, small restaurant or large home.
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