Will it give way or won’t it?
Is it a danger to the public or isn’t it?
Shouldn’t somebody in state and local government bother to find out before something bad happens?
Or are officials content to be twiddling their thumbs waiting for someone else to take responsibility for the Harrower Pond Dam in Amsterdam?
For the past 11 years, the 150-year-old stone dam has been cited by the state Department of Environmental Conservation as a “high-hazard dam,” replete with “deficiencies” that pose the potential for “significant safety concerns.”
But as the structure ages and continues to deteriorate, there appears to be considerable disagreement among local, county and even state officials on whether the dam poses a threat to the public downstream or whether any action needs to be taken to address its structural issues.
Some officials believe the dam could still pose a danger, particularly if there’s a significant weather event or breach of what’s left of the dam. Others believe the dam is now stable and that any identified threats have been mitigated naturally.
But no one’s doing anything to find out, in part, we suspect, because if it turns out that some action does need to be taken, it’s going to be expensive. And no one, not local governments and not the state, wants to absorb the cost.
Well, then, why not bill the owner of the dam, a New Jersey man named Sergio Delavega? That’s another oddity with this whole dam situation. Despite issuing Delavega numerous citations, no one’s hauling him into court to hold him accountable —apparently because they don’t know where he is.
Two things need to happen.
First, the state and/or the county need to hire a professional structural engineer, one with certification to inspect dams such as these for their integrity, to make recommendations for the best way to secure it so it can’t cause a flood.
Maybe they can agree to split the cost of the inspection.
The engineer’s recommendations should come with a price tag for any repairs so that local and state authorities can apply for or issue grants.
Second, they need to find the owner of this dam. If he’s alive, the government should have records of where he is. If he’s dead, they should have that, too. How hard can it be to find him?
Once they find him, hand him the bill for the engineering studies and the repairs. If he can’t pay it, then the government will have to pay to do any work.
Enough stalling. Find out the status of the dam now. Then, if necessary, do whatever needs to be done to stabilize it.
A potential public safety hazard like this shouldn’t be left to chance.