Mount Holly Township October 20, 2010
Mount Holly, New Jersey Monday 7:00 PM

MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING OF TOWNSHIP COUNCIL

Mayor Gibson called the October 20, 2010 meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

Roll Call.
Present: Mr. Belton, Ms. Kersey, Mr. Dow, Deputy Mayor Donnelly and Mayor Gibson
Absent: None
Professional: Mr. Brian Guest, Esq. Parker & McCay, Ms. Kathleen Hoffman, Township Manager/Clerk, and Ms. Vicki Conover, Deputy Clerk.

Moment of Silence.

Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Verification of Notice. This meeting is being held in compliance with the open public meeting act, chapter 231, public laws 1975 and certification is on file in the office of the Township Clerk.

Rancocas Creek Fish Passage Project

Introduction – Mayor Thomas Gibson / Moderator Janet Harrington (USACE) (5 minutes)

Janet Harrington – USACE – Ms. Harrington went over the Agenda and the rules for the evening with the Public.

Mayor Gibson stated that the reason for the meeting was to have an open discussion on what direction the Township should go in with the Dam. This will be an overview that will educate the public as well as Council.

Status of the Existing Dam and Funding for Repairs - Bill Long (Alaimo Group), Township Engineer (5 minutes)

Bill Long – Alaimo Group – Mr. Long went over the repairs and costs associated with those repairs as identified in the last inspection in 2008. Mill Dam is considered to be a Class III which means it is a low hazard potential and will cause no damage to property. A Class III needs to be inspected every four years. It was identified that there were three types of improvements that needed to be done. These improvements are identified as Immediate which would cost approximately $30,000 to $40,000, Short Term which would cost approximately $100,000 to $150,000 and Long Term which would cost approximately $1 million to $1 1/2 million. The Township has applied for funding and grants for the repairs.

Purpose / Management of Existing Dam - Kevin Tuno (Burlington County Office of Emergency Management) (5 minutes)

Kevin Tuno – Burlington County Office of Emergency Management – Mr. Tuno states that in the late 60’s, early 70’s the County noticed problems with the dams along the Rancocas. Eastampton allowed the County to take over the opening and closing of the dam to minimize flooding. In the 1980’s Mount Holly Township sent a letter to the County authorizing them to take over the regulations of opening and closing of the dam. Mount Holly Public Works actually go out and open and close the Dam. The County monitors the conditions and water levels along the Creek, conduct visual inspections and talk with the local OEM Coordinators to determine when to open and close the gates. John Hennessy was the liaison but he resigned and Mr. John McNamara is now a liaison for the Rancocas Creek Association. Mr. Tuno met with the people of the RCA association in June or July and they came up with a main objective to keep the water at a reasonable level. They normally close the 5 half gates in the center and the 2 large usually stay closed and are opened one on each side from time to time. They can’t control the weather forecast. Sometimes the gates are opened and there is no rain at all and vice versa. They can’t control how much water is taken out by the sod farmers for irrigation. More is taken in the summer time which means lower water levels.

Description of proposed dam removal and advantages – Mark Eberle (USACE) (10 minutes)

Mark Eberle – USACE – Mr. Eberle gave a presentation regarding a Dam Removal and its advantages of the dam being removed. Dam removal allows for the restoration of a stream back to its natural condition. It allows fish and other organisms to move up stream and it is ecologically good. He stated why it is more popular and the most cost effective.

Description of proposed fish ladder and advantages – Eric Schrading (USFWS) (10 minutes)

Eric Schrading – USFWS – Mr. Sharding made a presentation on the Fish Ladder. He spoke on how the fish ladder allows for migrant fish to move up stream. He went over the disadvantages of having to remove the debris from the dam that it costs to repair and for the replacement of the ladder. It doesn’t provide for resident fish just target fish to move upstream and the liability with the ladder is that it doesn’t restore stream ecology. It lasts approximately 25 years. A fish ladder costs between $15,000 and $40,000 per foot.

Chris Trebesky – Environmental Resolutions Inc. – Mr. Trebesky spoke about the costs associated with installing a fish ladder. The construction costs would be approximately $500,000. Engineering costs associated with this project are $150,000. The Army Corps of Engineers do a 65/35 match on this type of project. The Township has already spent $150,000 on engineering. The fish ladder will cost approximately $800,000. So the Township is looking at $280,000 but they have received a grant for $110,000 so the total cost would be $170,000.

Public Comments - sign up to talk for 2 minute slots (15 total) – Rich Pearsall (USACE) and Janet Harrington (USACE) (30 minutes)

Audrey Winzinger – Mill Race Village – Ms. Winzinger stated that Mount Holly has spend $100’s of thousands of dollars on different reports such as Strategic Plans and one constant message is to preserve the Mill Race. Without the 7 gates there will be no water and the Mill Race will dry up. The Dam is a key to the Historic district. It is critical to historic tourism. Mill Race Village is a destination for thousands. Without water it will be dried up and smelly. Getting rid of the Dam will be getting rid of Mill Race. Don’t take that away from us.

Joanne Winzinger – Mill Race Village – Ms. Winzinger stated that she has been crawling around the Mill Race for the past 20 years. Ms. Winzinger stated that Jules Thiessen took the liberties to open the gates and it was completely dry, just a trickle went down. A very small amount of water doesn’t help the Mill Race. It has a lot of problems. The walls are crumbling. There is no foundation. The saving grace is water. If the water is high enough, it doesn’t cause more damage. It is beautiful and Mill Race Village is centered around it.

Heidi Winzinger – Ms. Winzinger does not live here anymore but volunteers in town. She has no personal gain from the Mill Race. The town is great with being a County Seat and having a great waterway. She is part of the Mill Race Village Arts & Preservation. She recognizes the Mill Race Village history and it is a selling point for our town. All waterways should be preserved and enhanced. There are a lot of volunteers in this town that would be willing to fundraise or write grants to help fund the preservation of the dam. The town is built around waterways. It is a fabulous site to stand down in the water and look up at the walls and think about the people who hand dug the race and walls.

Rocky D’Entremont -101 Garden Street – Mr. D’Entremont does not own properties in the Mill Race Village but has an idea to save the dam. He had his neighbor, David Karg, do a watercolor rendering of his idea which he displayed. Mr. D’Entremont is suggesting that the dam become an un-gated solid spillway allowing overtopping similar to what is at Smithville but with one big difference; its construction cost. Mr. D’Entremont is suggesting a 30 degree sloped raw stone waterfall/fish ladder constructed by infilling using a riprap dam reinforcement technique similar to building a jetty or revetment using quarry stone covering riprap wire enclosed rock and recycled or precast concrete. The rendering depicts the view looking East toward the dam from the South bank of the Rancocas from about 100 yards downstream. Based on studies the engineers and environmentalists would select the optimum spillway elevation while the old turbine building with its three gates would be reactivated for level or flood control. This approach is inexpensive and reinforces the existing structure, saves the mill race, keeps water in the creek both upstream and downstream, allows emergency level control, provides for a fish ladder and adds a new dimension: an attractive but very low maintenance sloped waterfall and fish ladder; the centerpiece of Mill Dam & Iron Works Park. Imagine viewing the dam and waterfall from the footbridge presently downstream of the dam or imagine viewing a dried up river bed and mill race with a fast running stream from Smithville to Mount Holly eroding and cutting its way towards the South Branch of the Rancocas. I would suspect most would prefer the waterfall and fish ladder. Mr. D’Entremont’s research included reading published papers found via the internet regarding dam reinforcement and riprap subjected to overtopping mostly from the US Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado State University. Google: riprap, dam reinforcement, revetment techniques, fish ladders.

Thomas Greenfield – 225 Shreve Street – Mr. Greenfield’s home is creek front. He has heard arguments that removing the dam is cheaper than keeping. If the dam is taken out the silt that has been removed has to be tested. It may be too toxic and the basin may have to be dredged. It can cause fish kill down stream. Is there anything in the budget to clean up the 4 miles of the creek once the water is gone? The reseeding of the new banks will need to be done. It can cause problems with the ecosystem. Tree removal will be a problem and can obstruct the flow and cause flooding in the upstream. Burlington County Parks have kept the greenway open for kayaking and canoeing. If the water level goes down the concentration will go up. The property values along the creek will go down. It is a county seat, has a hospital and Burlington County College. These are making the taxable property limited to 40%. The revenue will drop. He is wondering if anyone looked outside the box such as the hydroelectric dam. The technology has changed over the last few years. The Federal Government has grants and the local utilities are interested in hydroelectric to bring down costs.

Laura Craig – American Rivers – Ms. Craig stated that American Rivers does not support Hydropower. American Rivers is a national non profit agency. They have done 500 dam removals. They believe in restoration of rivers. She is familiar with Mill Dam and the Park. She heard the concerns of the residents. She can be of any assistance to Mount Holly Township as needed. She has her PHD in Stream Ecology. The American Rivers supports river restoration. They will plant things so that they are not left with a mudflat. They find funding for sediment that is left behind after the dam is removed. They also sponsor river clean up after the dam removal at no cost to the town. They work on conservation for planting and monitoring at no cost to the town. The River Grants are not matching even though they are small. They can fund up to $100,000 towards dam removal. They can help find additional funding that is available.

Randi Rothmel – 33 Union Street - Ms. Rothmel is the Chairman Environmental Advisory Committee – Ms. Rothmel said she believes that there are three choices with what to do with the dam. They are repair, remove and repair with the installation of the fish ladder. With the removal of the dam, the water will become a trickle. The Committee doesn’t want the dam removed because of the environmental impact and the unpleasant consequences. There will be a loss of environment and wildlife. The recreational value is going to be lost. There is not going to be kayaking. The walkways and bikeway are pleasant and picturesque and connect to downtown area. It will have a commercial impact on the Mill Race Village. It will be negatively impacted. It is one of our biggest assets, having a waterway. She believes Mr. D’Entremont’s idea is worthwhile looking at. We need to look outside the box for alternatives to keep everyone happy.

Janet Fittipaldi – 28 East Millcreek Road, Eastampton – Ms. Fittipaldi heard the option of the spillway. She is in favor of replacing the dam with a spillway. The Township needs to make the most economical decision.

Claudia McNamara – 249 Shreve Street – Ms. McNamara states that the members of the Rancocas Creek Association have created a list of questions in four categories commercial, recreational, residential and political. Mayor Gibson states that they will get the questions answered for them. Not everyone is a member of the creek association. They are very concerned with the flood control. They keep close attention to the flooding on Kate’s Tract. She supports open dialogue and is concerned with the Army Corps of Engineers going over the advantages and is disconcerned because they did not go over the disadvantages. The American Rivers stating the water will continue in the Mill Race is not reassuring. We need to think outside of the box. They moved here in 1984 and in 2003 her house burnt down. They looked at other places because they thought they were too old to rebuild. They came back because it is a unique town and they care about it. They love living on the Creek. They miss Hack’s canoes. The County made a difference with the creek and it is being used again for canoeing and kayaking.

Kerry Sharps – 225 Shreve Street – Mr. Sharps showed pictures of what happened when the gates were open about 3-6 months ago. It is reality not a photo shop.

Glenn Benjamin – 122 Broad Street – Mr. Benjamin has heard stories about the Dam. He is more concerned with the Economics. It is not free money. The Federal Government is having economic problems and we do not need to be spending money to worry about the Dam. He would like the Township to do nothing today. It is no danger to anyone. Save the money. It is financially irresponsible to spend it on something.

Anthony Karniky Jr. – 2 Kates Tract – Mr. Karnicky is for the partial removal of the dam. The law’s of 1980 need to be revamped and modernized. We need to be more aware of the flooding and events that take place prior to the storm. Back on July 13th or 14th, we had 5.9 inches of rain in 40 hours and the water was coming up to my back door. The County OEM said they were waiting for low tide to open the gates. Over the past 2 years, the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders have spent 5.8 million dollars for clean up on the South Branch of the Creek and one of the Freeholders stated that it was not an option to help with the repairs/replacement of the Dam. The county can put funding in the cleanup of the South Branch but what about some funding clean up of the North Branch. One way to do something is to lower the water levels. Not doing anything could create danger down the road. When there is a big storm, he gets a knot in his stomach watching the weather channel. The nearest flood gauge is in Pemberton. It is obsolete on Mount Holly’s end. How about putting a solar farm on the landfill to make money for dam improvements?

Eleanor Gesensway – 16 Kates Tract – Ms. Gesensway stated that her family has lived along the creek since 1937. She recommends it. Her children and grandchildren’s friends come to visit and they love the creek. Everyone should enjoy its beauty. Please don’t let it go. We are special because we have the creek and we need to save the dam.

Paul Loane – 10 Henry Lane – Mr. Loane’s family has been here since the late 1930’s. When he retired from Rutger’s University, he decided to move back from Cherry Hill. It is the place to live along the creek. As long as there is water there. When they lower the water, it is a lousy site to see what is going on with the creek. The charm is gone. If we removed the dam, what would we be left with? Please save the dam, it is a great place.

William Dunn – Mount Holly MUA – Mr. Dunn has a concern with observing this. He has experience with water. He is upset that the Army Corps of Engineers did not address the cons of removing the dam. If you remove the dam, halfway between the dam and Pine Street will be an island. There will be more flooding in town. He is for saving the spillway channel so that it can flow through the Mill Race. There is phosphorus in the sand and it would cost millions to get rid of it. We need to keep the dam so that we don’t loose the flow from above.

Shane Neergaard – 237 Shreve Street – Mr. Neergaard stated that when his wife was little she would go to the creek. They love Kates Tract for the recreation on the creek. They now live on Shreve Street because they outgrew their home on Kates Tract. He heard the talk about the removal of the dam and the water level being reduced. We couldn’t enjoy the kayaks if there is no water. He is not sure of all of the options. He knows that there has been flooding upstream. Maybe that could be alleviated with quicker response times. He would like the Township to consider keeping the water upstream.

Question and Answer session – Janet Harrington (USACE) and All Team Members - 30 minutes

There were several questions on migratory fish from the public which were addressed by Eric Schrading of USFWS.

There were questions with the use of riprap. Eric Shrading of USFWS and Laura Craig of American Rivers were able to answer the questions regarding this.

There were several questions on the removal of the silt and the costs. Laura Craig was able address this concern and has offered to take anyone from the public on a field trip to see several dam removals that have already been done. Eric Shrading also answered questions and stated that preliminary testing has been done on the site. Mark Eberle (USACE) stated that there were some costs in the original million dollar number for sediment removal.

Some questioned how the removal of the dam would affect the old course that is no longer since the flood control project was done. Mark Eberle stated that the removal of the dam will not have an affect on that course.

One questioned if the fish ladder only last 25 years, will the town have to spend more money in another 25 years. Eric Sharding stated that the Township doesn’t have to spend any money to rehabilitate the fish ladder.

Closing - 5 minutes – Mayor Thomas Gibson / Moderator Janet Harrington

Ms. Harrington turned the meeting over to the Mayor for his closing remarks.

Mayor Gibson would like to thank Janet for her time and for allowing everyone to observe and listen. With the help of the Fish & Wildlife and the Army Corps we hope to come up with the right solution for Mount Holly. Council is going to digest everything they heard tonight and come up with their own questions to be asked. The dialogue will be continued and they will get back to the public. This is not a one time meeting. They are going to digest the facts that were presented and see what the next step will be. There will be another meeting of similar form if necessary. He thanked everyone for coming out tonight and their input was heard.

Adjournment.
All business being completed, Deputy Mayor Donnelly made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Dow seconds the motion. All in favor the meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
Kathleen D. Hoffman
Municipal Clerk

 

 

 

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