The dam at Lake Lenape, which is slated for repairs this fall, has been handling the extra water from recent rainstorms well. But the same cannot be said for all of its wildlife.
Hundreds of small shad died in the lake last week after heavy rainfall caused a change in the water temperature, said Vince Jones, the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator. The lake took in excess water from the Great Egg Harbor River, and the small fish could not adapt to the colder water, he said.
Many washed up on shore or were eaten by other fish and birds at the lake, Jones said.
Mays Landing resident Beverly Hoagland, who lives on Lenape Avenue near the lake, said she found hundreds of the small fish in her backyard on Friday and Saturday. Her family put many in bags and buried them in her backyard, she said.
“We were concerned because there was no communication (from the county) if they were safe to pick up or not,” she said.
Jones said this kind of incident occurs often after water temperatures drastically change, and that the fish did not die from contamination.
“There was no cause for alarm,” he said.
The amount of water caused the lake to rise about 2 feet higher than normal late last week, Jones said. The county set a boating speed limit of 5 mph on Aug. 18 due to excessive water, but that was lifted two days later as water levels returned to normal.
Jones said county officials also are preparing for more rain this week from Hurricane Irene.
Repairs to the dam are scheduled for the fall due to mechanical problems with the valves that control the three gates. The dam’s spillway is designed to eliminate overflow issues, Jones said. But because the dam cannot open, officials cannot provide more water in case of low rainfall, he said.
The county and Hamilton Township are working with Agate Construction of Dennis Township, Cape May County, to build a coffer dam around the dam to block water flow to the structure and repair the dam. The three parties are meeting regularly through the summer to gauge the dam and determine a plan for repairs.
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