Pemberton Twp. dams set to be replaced

Posted: June 07, 2014

Three substandard dams in Pemberton Township - including two long classified as "high hazards" by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection - are expected to be replaced this summer as part of a $7.2 million contract. The project will remove the dams from a list of nearly 200 neglected and potentially dangerous dams that the state agency monitors.

"We're replacing the dams because we were instructed several years ago to bring them up to standard, or drain the lakes," Mayor David Patriarca said. "We didn't want our residents to lose their lakes, which are and always have been an integral part of our community."

The three earthen dams and spillways that hold back the man-made Country Lakes were built by a developer in 1954 and have deteriorated, attracting the DEP's attention a decade or more ago, Township Administrator Dennis Gonzalez said. He said the town bought the lakes in 1996. Public swimming, fishing, and nonmotorized boating are permitted at the lakes.

A contract for the work was awarded to Loftus Construction of Cinnaminson, Gonzalez said. He said tree roots had undermined the aging embankments.

The DEP is monitoring more than 170 dams that have been classified in poor condition.

In Burlington County, 30 dams are deemed either poor or unsatisfactory, including nine that crumbled a decade ago when torrential rain fell during a 1,000-year storm and swelled the Rancocas Creek and its tributaries.

According to a list provided by the DEP, the nine include two Kenilworth Lake dams and the Union Mill Lake Dam, all in Evesham Township; Upper Stokes Dam and the Mimosa Lake Dam in Medford Township; the Quoque Dam in Medford Lakes; the Batsto Lake Dam in Washington Township; the Sooy Dam in Woodland Township; and the Old Forge Lake Dam in Southampton. The private owners of Upper Stokes Dam were fined $3,750 last year for ignoring orders to make repairs, the DEP reported.

The remaining 37 dams that burst or were damaged during the July 12, 2004, storm in Burlington County have been fixed. Among that group is the Bayberry Street Dam in Pemberton Township, which Gonzalez said was replaced about a month ago for about $900,000. He said FEMA was expected to reimburse the township more than $500,000 for the work.

Patriarca said the town council voted unanimously last week to fix the remaining three deficient dams at the same time this summer because they were a concern and the town was able to get a good price by combining the work. He said the town received 14 bids, the winning one of $10.5 million. The township will pay for the work by obtaining a bond, he said.

The lakes will not have to be closed while the work is in progress, Patriarca said.

856-779-3224 @JanHefler

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