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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2004

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795

NEW JERSEY WINS ROUND IN EFFORT TO IMPROVE DAM SAFETY

Superior Court Ruling Demands Draining of Lake Behind Dam in Need of Repair

(04/91) TRENTON -- The New Jersey Superior Court this week ruled in favor of the state in a decision ordering the lowering of a lake behind the Kenilworth Lake Dam #1 in Evesham Township. The decision supports the state's aggressive efforts to get dam owners to bring their dams into compliance with safety requirements.

"This decision should serve as a notice to dam owners of the gravity and importance of dam safety," said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "While ordering a lake drained is the state's last resort, our first priority must be public safety. Dam owners out-of-compliance with safety requirements should take advantage of low-interest repair loans currently offered by the state or else expect to face similarly tough enforcement."

"We will continue to work with DEP to ensure that all dam owners are held accountable for properly inspecting and maintaining their dams to ensure the safety of people and property downstream," said Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. "In this case, Kenilworth Lake Dam has been ordered drained until it can be reconstructed by the owners in a sound manner. I urge all dam owners to comply with their obligation under the law to repair their dams and keep these structures in good condition."

On August 4, Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder entered an order against Pine Acres Associates and developer Joseph Samost, owner of Kenilworth Lake Dam #1, to begin to drain the water level completely behind the dam starting Friday, August 6, 2004. In an effort to bring the dam into compliance, the DEP had issued numerous order letters to the dam owner, which were largely ignored. The DEP ultimately referred the case to the Attorney General's office for legal action; the case has been in Superior Court since July 26, 2004.

The dam sustained additional structural damages during the July 12, 2004 rainstorm event in Burlington County.

The August 4, 2004 order also stipulates times for the submission of permits for draining the lake. Failure to comply with the order will subject Joseph Samost to penalties under the Safe Dam Act, N.J.S.A. 58:4-1 et seq., and any other sanctions the Court may impose, including the appointment of a trustee to oversee draining and reconstruction of Kenilworth Lake Dam.

"This case underscores the DEP's limited power in enforcing dam safety rules," added Campbell. "Rather than only relying on last-resort legal action, the DEP is working with the legislature to gain authority to issue administrative penalties that will aid in enforcement against delinquent dam owners, like the owners of Kenilworth Lake Dam #1."

The Kenilworth Lake Dam #1 is considered to be a significant hazard (Class II) dam structure, which is operating in an unsafe condition and in need of immediate repairs. A failure of this earthen dam could negatively impact downstream area structures including Kenilworth Road, Braddocks Mill Road, Colony Lake Dam, and about a dozen homes located around the Colony Lake area.

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.

Kenilworth Lake, which has a normal surface area of approximately 22 acres, is primarily used for recreational purposes. The earthen dam has a maximum height of about 17 feet and length of about 300 feet. The dam is located on an unnamed tributary to Barton Run within the Evesham Township in Burlington County.

Public Question Number 3, overwhelmingly approved by voters last November, included $95 million in bonds to fund low-interest loans for dam repairs. The DEP accepted applications for loans this spring; subsequent to last month's flooding in Burlington County, Governor McGreevey ordered the application period reopened until September 30, 2004 so that dam owners statewide could take advantage of the funding to make needed repairs.

There are approximately 1,600 known dams in New Jersey. More information about DEP's dam safety program and the low-interest loan program is available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/damsafety.

 

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