The project to repair the dam on Gabriel Road in the Town of Bethel has seen numerous obstacles since it washed out in 2005. The latest cropped up at the town meeting on April 28.
Supervisor Dan Sturm said the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is requiring that the town produce an evaluation of how the project might impact bald eagles and golden eagles in the area.
The DEC says this is necessary because the area is mapped as having bald eagle habitat within a half mile of the project. A DEC representative is going to inspect the site and, if all goes well, once that is done, the town’s application for a Stream Disturbance Permit will be deemed complete. Then, after a 30-day public-comment period on the application, the permit may be issued and work can begin.
The work calls for a metal-arch pipe culvert to be placed in the breach through the dam. The pipe will measure some 7’5” high, 11’7” wide and 36” long. Sturm would like the work to be finished this year.
When it is complete, it will mark the end of a rather complex process that began before 2002, when plans were made to upgrade the dam. The dam itself is on private property, but the road that goes over the dam is a town road. In order to fix the dam, the town had to come to an agreement with the property owner, Warren Brey.
The DEC also had a say about how the dam should be repaired because that agency has jurisdiction over dam safety. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) also had input because the dam is in a federal wetland.
And yet another agency had an interest in the matter: the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Back in 2006, an application had been filed with SHPO to determine whether the dam is eligible to be placed on the New York State Historic Register. It was determined that the dam is eligible, and even though the dam has not been listed on the register, according to spokesman Dan Keefe, SHPO would likely be asked to give advice about the restoration project.
He said SHPO’s mission is to help insure that any preservation work to facilities, such as the dam, is done in a way that minimizes harm to its historical value.
Finally, the other agency involved was the Federal Management Emergency Agency (FEMA). Because the dam was damaged during a flood and FEMA has once provided some money for dam repairs, that agency also had a stake in the matter. The money, however, was ultimately returned to FEMA.
With all of these various interests involved, progress has been stalled. Sturm said the board started fresh last year, with the aim of working with the DEC to focus specifically on getting the road open. The road is needed for emergency vehicles and, without it, residents must travel several additional miles to get to Jeffersonville.
So far, he said, things are going as planned. No other agencies have put up any roadblocks and the town is working with Brey to address as many of his concerns as possible.