Beaver Dam Lake Residents Await Extreme Makeover of Dam
By Edie Johnson
Blooming Grove, N.Y. – Beaver Dam Lake residents will likely be facing a big change in the near future if an anticipated increase in the dam’s reconstruction is approved by the Orange County Legislature next month. The well-loved recreation area which dates back 100 years and spurs many residents living around the Lake to enjoy “staycations” while boating, swimming and fishing will see their lake emptied for over a year, possibly approaching two years, in order to make some very necessary repairs.
While the dam itself is in Blooming Grove, the lake encompasses 3 towns, including New Windsor and Cornwall.
The rebuild, which will include dismantling of the 36 ft. high structure that holds back approximately 500 million gallons of water is expected to use new technology that will make it safer in the event of a future increase in floods. But to the naked eye it is clearly already crumbling along the outer barriers and in need of attention. Structural repairs and modifications will then bring it into conformance with new regulations. Engineering plans and specifications were completed in January, 2018; however the estimate of cost for the entire project (construction, engineering and management of the project), rose from $3.7 million to $4.6 million when the bids came in.
Back in the 1950’s Beaver Dam Lake rivaled Greenwood Lake and the big hotels along the Borscht Belt as a favorite place for NYC dwellers to spend their summers. Harbor Lights Clubhouse had moonlit clam bakes and perhaps the tallest diving board in the area. Many returned later to establish permanent homes. Today’s Beaver Dam residents have a close knit community as well, with activities throughout the seasons. This past winter they cordoned off portions that had thick enough ice for safe recreational activities. But today’s lakeside community members are practical. They understand the serious nature of repairs that are overdue and must be done. But a decision about the new $4.6 estimate will be up to a legislative vote. The public hearing on the matter is scheduled in two weeks. Portions of the cost will be allayed by a $1M State Environmental Grant, and other monies come from the lake district fund. 87% of district voters voted in favor of the reconstruction.
Details of the planned construction are voluminous and are listed on the county’s website with links to additional details (https://www.orangecountygov.com/537/Dam-Rehabilitation-Project). It includes details of the construction schedule which will restrict work to 7am – 5pm Mon. – Fri. with no work on weekends or holidays. A refilling plan must be approved by the state
Meanwhile, for safety reasons, the dam site itself is restricted from access by both residents and the public.
What about PFO’s
During last year’s scare about PFOS/PFOA contaminants moving through groundwater to the City of Newburgh’s water supply, it was determined that there were a few spots around Beaver Dam Lake with minimal readings as well, and a relatively low reading in the Moodna Creek, into which the lake discharges its water. Asked whether he thought emptying of the Beaver Dam Lake could pose a risk to quality of water in the Moodna, Larry Rossini, Chairman of the Beaver Dam Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District said he did not expect the surface flow to change. But he added that when testing around the lake was initially done in 2016-2017, relatively high levels of perfluorinated compounds were found in the tributaries that come into Beaver Dam Lake. The tributaries originate from the western end of Stewart and the measurements were as high as those heading toward Lake Washington. They are believed to have resulted not from the concentrate spill that affected Newburgh, but from fighting the fire of a FEDEX airplane in 1996. Fish tested by the DEC also showed levels of the PFO’s. He also said that the DEC had been asked to test the sediment, but had declined.
The good news is that testing of homeowner wells around the lake showed only one well with significantly high readings. Out of an abundance of caution, swimming and fishing have been restricted (catch and release only). Of 800 homes in the Lake District, 650 of them have private wells. The current DEC warning level for PFO’s is 70 parts per trillion. During testing only 2 wells had significant readings. Nevertheless the state installed 33 POET (Point of Entry ) systems at about $14,000 each to ensure that lakeside residents’ water supply is safe. Bottled water was provided to residents who wanted it as well, and blood testing was available to those who wished.
Rossini emphasized that neither Beaver Dam Lake nor the Moodna Creek are used as a drinking source. Even so, there was only one well that had significant readings at the north end of the lake. The Beaver Dam Rehabilitation District is quick to report any significant developments about the lake, the construction work, and recreation events.
Look for more to come on this story (along with a call to the state DEC to inquire about coming back to test tributary sediment at the north end). The Orange County Post will be at the legislature’s public hearing if it stays on their docket for April 23 and will update this story online as soon as a decision is made on the demolition and reconstruction bids.
Meanwhile, residents are hoping the decision and construction can begin soon so they will get their beautiful lake back to enjoy sooner rather than later.