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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2004

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795

STATE RESPONDS TO DAM FAILURES IN BURLINGTON COUNTY

DEP Will Reopen Loan Application Period for Dam Repair Funding

(04/83) TRENTON -- The State is responding today to the failure of six significant hazard dams and three low hazard dams in Burlington County, as well as the severe weakening of two high hazard dams. Steady rainfall of four to 12 inches in the past 24 hours contributed to the dam failures. In response to today's events, Governor James E. McGreevey has directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reopen the application process for loans to fund dam repairs.

"The State of New Jersey responded immediately to this situation, sending engineering teams to protect public safety and guard against loss of life or major property damage," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "As today's flooding has heightened awareness of the importance of shoring up the state's dams, Governor McGreevey has directed the DEP to reopen the application period for dam repair loans funded by the bond referendum passed last November."

The DEP and State Police first responded to the dam failures around midnight after receiving reports of potential dam safety issues in the Medford Lakes area of Burlington County. The DEP dispatched a team of engineers to the area to confirm the emergency conditions, survey and assess the affected areas, and coordinate with the state police and the offices of emergency management. Later in the morning, the DEP dispatched two teams of engineers to assess and to inspect other dams located in the area.

New Jersey has more than 1,600 dams on streams and rivers throughout the state. Approximately 60 dams are located in Medford Lakes and surrounding areas. So far, the DEP has confirmed the failure of six significant hazard dams in Burlington County:

Lower Aetna Lake Dam, Medford Lakes Borough
Upper Aetna Lake Dam, Medford Lakes Borough
Birchwood Lake Dam, Medford Township
Lake Stockwell Dam, Medford Township
Papoose Lake Dam, Medford Township
Inawendiwin Lower Dam, Tabernacle Township

In addition, three low hazard dams - Inawendiwin Upper Dam in Tabernacle Township, Crane Lake Dam in Evesham Township and Kenilworth Lake Dam in Medford Township - have also failed.

Two high hazard dams, Timber Lake Dam in Medford Township and Vincentown Mill Dam in Vincentown, are currently under Dam Emergency Conditions, with Timber Lake Dam partially breached. Dam Emergency Conditions are situations where a dam is being overtopped or rapid deterioration is occurring. A failure may eventually occur; however, pre-planned emergency responses may moderate or alleviate failure. In this case, the DEP is working with the dam owner to engage in a complete, controlled lowering of Timber Lake. The state continues to evaluate the situation at Vincentown Mill Dam.

There are four hazard classifications of dams in New Jersey. The classifications relate to the potential for property damage and/or loss of life should the dam fail:

  • Class I (High-Hazard Potential) - Failure of the dam may result in probable loss of life and/or extensive property damage.
  • Class II (Significant-Hazard Potential) - Failure of the dam may result in significant property damage; however loss of life is not envisioned.
  • Class III (Low-Hazard Potential) - Failure of the dam is not expected to result in loss of life and/or significant property damage.
  • Class IV (Small-Dam Low-Hazard Potential) - Failure of the dam is not expected to result in loss of life or significant property damage. Dam must also meet specific size and construction requirements.

There are 196 high hazard dams in New Jersey; the DEP has determined that 50 of these dams are in need of repairs at an estimated cost of at least $33 million. There are also 396 significant hazard dams throughout the state; 317 are in need of some form of repairs. The estimated cost to bring these significant hazard dams up to current standards is at least $126 million.

"The public's safety should not be jeopardized by dam failures," added Campbell. "Governor McGreevey had the foresight to recognize the magnitude of this problem in campaigning for passage last fall of a ballot referendum authorizing $200 million for dam repairs and other infrastructure projects."

Public Question Number 3, overwhelmingly approved by voters last November, authorized bond funding to help repair dams that pose threats to public safety as well as to promote dredging, stream restoration, and flood control projects. The referendum also provided bonds for state-authorized loans financing wastewater treatment and water resource projects that would provide vital improvements to water quality.

Funds from this bond referendum will be used to help prevent future failures like those that happened today. Applications for the first round of loans under the program were accepted this spring. More information about DEP's dam safety program and the loan program is available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety.

The DEP and state police will continue to assess the situation in Burlington County throughout the rest of the day and help make every effort to minimize damage from the dam failures.

 

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