WEYMOUTH TOWNSHIP — Mays Landing residents will have to wait at least two years before work starts to repair the Lake Lenape dam, according to the head of the county engineering department.
John Peterson gave a report on the state of the dam at Tuesday’s Atlantic County freeholder meeting, held at the Weymouth Township municipal building. The dam leaks and the water control structures are not working properly, he said.
The dam is considered high hazard, meaning its failure would result in loss of property and possibly also of life, Peterson said. But a five-year legal battle with Agate Construction over a failed cofferdam it installed in 2011, and the need for state permitting, have delayed the county’s ability to fix the dam.
“Legal mediation was finished February 2016,” Peterson said. “From that point forward, we’ve been working to contract with a consultant to study and develop concepts for the dam.”
A plan to house the water control equipment inside the historic powerhouse next to the earthen dam is awaiting state approval, Peterson said, and it may take a year and a half or more to get all approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection and others.
Owned by the county and Hamilton Township together, the county is responsible for engineering and the township for doing its best to use the failing water control structure to control water flow during high-volume rain events, county Administrator Jerry DelRosso said.
The problem now, residents around the lake said, is that the constant leaking has caused the water level to fall dramatically. Many have had to remove their boats, they said.
“The gates are not leaking. It is a deluge,” said Sue Rocap, who lives on the lake.
Residents and freeholders agreed there should be a grassroots movement to encourage state agencies to approve plans for the repair more quickly.
“We had the issue with trains to Atlantic City,” said Freeholder Frank Formica. “We screamed. We embarrassed them (state Department of Transportation officials) into coming into town. I’d be more than glad to be part of that.”
Resident Carl Pitale, the homeowner representative on a committee overseeing the dam, said the mediation ended with a payment of $750,000 to Agate, which was asking for much more for the failed work they did.
He said the county paid $600,000 of that and the township and an engineering firm paid the rest.
The original dam is more than 100 years old, Peterson said, and was first built to service a cotton mill. Later it provided electric power to Wheaton Glass, which owned and operated the dam next to its large factory.
The dam could again provide electric power if there were a nearby development to supply, Del Rosso said. But he said it would be prohibitively expensive to build infrastructure to serve anything farther away.