Upper Macungie is considering partially breaching the Fogelsville Dam so it would no longer be considered a “high hazard” dam, a township supervisor said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has the township to either repair the deteriorating dam or breach it. Breaching the dam – removing the barrier that holds the water back – could be especially costly because the dam helps hold up Hassadahl Road, so it can’t be removed without extensive work to the road, according to township engineer Dean Haas.
Upper Macungie Supervisor Kathy Rader said last week that to breach the dam and replace the road foundation could cost about $2 million. But a partial breaching of the dam might take it off the “high hazard” list while saving the township from the expense of full removal, Rader said.
“We’re in the process of preparing a dam breach analysis,” Rader said. DEP has also instructed the township to draw up an emergency plan on notifying residents in the area should there be a dam break or other emergency.
The designation “high hazard” refers to the potential for loss of life or property if a dam should break, not the condition of the dam, according to Colleen Connolly, DEP spokeswoman for the Northeast Region.
To be considered high hazard, a dam doesn’t have to be surrounded by houses.
“Water travels pretty far,” she said. The label takes into account that a dam break could jeopardize people driving on Haasadahl road and residents far downstream.
DEP officials plan to set up a meeting with Upper Macungie officials in the next few weeks to see what progress they’ve made toward a resolution, Connolly said.
Built in the early 1900s by Lehigh Portland Cement Co., the concrete dam is 110 foot across and 13 foot tall and 12 foot wide at its base. When the cement company closed its nearby quarries, it turned the dam over to Lehigh County. The county later gave it to the township along with the land near the intersection with Tilghman Street.
In May, DEP Spokesman Kevin Sunday said his agency has no funds to help pay for dam remediation but it was working with local legislators to see if other money might be available.
In 2011, of the 3,325 state-regulated dams in Pennsylvania, 776 were considered high hazard, 287 were rated as having a significant hazard potential and 2,262 were deemed low hazard potential, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.