Reprint of the Burlington County Times article from May 21, 2008

Mt. Holly seeks partners to share $1.7 million cost to fix dam

By DANIELLE CAMILLI
Burlington County Times
MOUNT HOLLY — Weighing the possibility of eliminating Mill Dam to avoid costly repairs and upkeep, the Township Council decided to open the dam in March to see how the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek would be affected.

It didn't take long for the council to decide it didn't like what it was seeing, Mayor Brooke Tidswell III said yesterday.

“With the dam opened and the gates lowered, there was a significant drop in the flow of water,” he said. “The creek was down about five feet at the gates, and there was an impact for two miles up toward Smithville.”

After reviewing those results, the council has reached a consensus that the dam off Pine Street should be repaired instead of removed. Tidswell said the council could make an official decision on the dam at a meeting next month. The dam remains open.

Engineers have estimated repairs could cost $1.7 million, Tidswell said.

“It needs to be rebuilt and stabilized,” he said. “The dam needs constant upkeep.”

The township spends about $100,000 a year in dam maintenance.

Keeping the dam means the council must find a way to pay for needed repairs. Tidswell said the township is courting other municipal, county, state and federal entities that could help pay for the repairs.

“The township can't afford to fix the dam by itself,” he said. “We are looking to find partners who benefit from the use of the waterway. We certainly need some help.”

Those partners include Burlington County and Eastampton, the mayor said. The dam and the north branch of the Rancocas Creek are part of the county's canoe trail route, which flows through Smithville Park in Eastampton.

The township also is hoping to find assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tidswell said. The corps has said it would fund and build a fish ladder if improvements are made to the dam.

The fish ladder would allow fish to use a series of water-filled steps to cross the dam as they migrate upstream from the Delaware River. With the installation of the ladder, some grant money could be made available for the dam repairs, the mayor said.

The Rancocas Creek Association, a residents' group, is lobbying for the retention of the dam and working to find funding sources.

The future of the dam was first considered in 2004 when the council studied the possibility of removing the structure. No action was taken at the time because property owners along the creek feared that the elimination of the dam would lower water levels and their homes values.

E-mail: dcamilli@phillyBurbs.com

May 21, 2008 8:06 AM