HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — A project to upgrade the Lake Lenape Dam took a step forward on Wednesday, Feb. 17 when the Historic Sites Council of the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office (NJHPO) unanimously voted to recommend an approval to the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe during a virtual meeting. The NJHPO is part of the Department of Environmental Protection and brings expertise in a variety of fields essential to preserving historic resources. The dam, co-owned by Hamilton Township and Atlantic County, needed an approval from the agency due to the historic nature of the structure, located in Hamilton Township’s historic district.
The application was titled “Lake Lenape Dam Slide Gate Rehabilitation and Spillway Reconstruction.”
“Hamilton Township became the owner of the dam in 1978,” Atlantic County Department of Regional Planning and Development Head John Peterson said. The county became a co-owner during the 1980’s when it purchased the Lake Lenape property.”
“The site is classified as a Class One High Hazard dam that could lead to loss of life and extreme property damage if the dam were breached. A Spillway Design Flood would inundate well over 100 properties with lower-lying properties experiencing several feet of flooding.
“There have been several projects over the past three decades to repair the dam, some successful, some not. During those projects, every effort has been made to preserve its historic values.”
The proposed project is designed to improve the existing powerhouse and rehabilitate the dam. Improvements to the powerhouse include the replacement of the existing wooden gates with powered steel sliding gates, the removal of existing turbines, the installation of new electric conduit and power supply, and the repair of concrete cracks and chips inside the sluiceway.
The dam rehab includes the replacement of the existing spillway with a labyrinth design, new concrete training walls, new concrete spillway slab tied in with footing piles and the upgraded steel gates at the powerhouse will function as the new low level outlet gate.
NJHPO Senior Historic Preservation Specialist and Archaeologist Vincent Maresca provided a history of the site. “The dam was constructed circa 1849-56 for a cotton mill,” he said. “It was reconstructed in 1878. The powerhouse was added in 1920 to generate electricity.”
“The mill closed in 1949. The buildings then housed a glass and paper company until about 2000. A fire damaged the buildings in 2007 but left the powerhouse undamaged.”
“I'm very pleased with the outcome of the State Historic Preservation Office meeting, where the plans for the powerhouse were reviewed and accepted,” Hamilton Township Deputy Mayor Carl Pitale said.
“There are several more permits that must be submitted before it can be advertised for bid. I believe the required paperwork for the permits has been prepared, just waiting for the county to look them over and then submit them. Most of these permits have set timelines when the various entities must render a decision, but with the pandemic and executive orders put in place by Governor Murphy, these timelines have been waived. I plan on being relentless when it comes to pushing for approval of the required permits. This has taken long enough, and we need to get to the next step ASAP.”