VINELAND— Work is scheduled to begin in September to repair Willow Grove Lake’s dams and spillways, structures that almost gave way and flooded parts of the city in 2011.
The project calls for the complete reconstruction of a bridge and its spillway and dam on Weymouth Road in Cumberland County, Cumberland County Engineer William Rafferty said.
Another nearby bridge-dam-spillway on Weymouth Road in Salem County will also be significantly upgraded, he said.
The cost of the $7.2 million project will be split between Cumberland and Salem counties, although discussions are still underway on whether the job will be handled under one contract, Rafferty said. Cumberland County will bond for at least $3 million worth of its share of the project’s cost, which will get some state funding, he said.
While the project will correct longstanding problems with the dams and spillways, it will create some traffic detours while the one bridge is removed and rebuilt, Rafferty said. Detour routes and how sections of Weymouth Road will be closed during the estimated 15-month construction period are still being determined, he said.
“There’s going to be a sizeable detour,” he said.
Willow Grove Lake is located on the border of Cumberland and Salem counties.
Officials in both counties have dealt with problems at Willow Grove Lake since floodwaters from a 2007 storm damaged the dams and spillways. The condition of those structures forced the state Department of Environmental Protection to lower the lake’s water level. That action relieved pressure on the dams and spillways.
That action also resulted in complaints from some area residents and sportsmen that it ruined the lake as a popular boating and fishing location.
The situation worsened in August 2011, when several days of heavy rain caused Willow Grove Lake to rise quickly. The resulting floodwaters again damaged the dams and spillways and washed out parts of Weymouth Road.
Those structures were so damaged that emergency personnel ordered some residents in the city’s North Vineland section to evacuate. Officials feared parts a full washout of the dam and Weymouth Road would leave parts of North Vineland under several feet of water.
DEP eventually sued both Cumberland and Salem counties and the Nature Conservancy, which owns Willow Grove Lake, in an attempt to end disputes about who is responsible for repairing the damage caused by the August flooding. A subsequent settlement made both counties responsible for maintaining parts of the dame and spillways.
The August 2011 storm also damaged dams, spillways and raceways to Sunset Lake on the Bridgeton-Upper Deerfield Township border and Seeley Lake in Upper Deerfield Township.
Sunset Lake drained after floodwaters breached its dam. Water rushed through the dam, scouring away the banks of its raceway and eventually draining into the Cohansey River.
Rafferty said plans are still being developed to repair the damage at Sunset Lake.
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