A small but dedicated group of College and local community members came out in the pouring rain Tuesday, Oct. 17, for a public meeting on the impact of the Lake Ceva dam repair project. The dam project requires draining the lake down to a depth of two feet and is scheduled to be completed by May 31 or sooner, according to William Rudeau, director of Construction.
Community concerns focused on obstruction of walking paths around the College and heavier traffic on Lake Boulevard, a residential street, though ecological worries also were brought up.
Deborah Knox, associate professor of computer science, and her husband Dan, residents of the local Hillwood Lakes community in Ewing, brought up several concerns. Deborah Knox walks to the College and was concerned that the walkway she traverses each day would be obstructed by the work. Rudeau assured her that it would not, and would take steps to make sure that a path to the College around the eight-foot chain link fence around the project would still exist.
The Knoxes were also concerned that construction traffic on Lake Boulevard would clog the road and create additional noise in the area.
“That’s a bad road there,” Dan Knox said.
Rudeau said that the construction entrance is currently located on Lake Boulevard. However, he said he would be contacting the Mercer County Soil Department for approval to move the entrance to Metzger Drive. While some traffic would still be required on Lake Boulevard to accommodate work on the Lake Boulevard side of the dam, it would be minimized.
Dan Knox also said that he was troubled that a letter mailed to his house indicated that plans for the project were on file at the Ewing Township Clerk’s office. He said he took time off from work to inspect the plans and they were not on file.
According to Curt Heuring, vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Safety, the letter sent to the community was a form letter with language dictated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). While most builders would file plans with the township or city clerk, the College, as a state institution, gets its building permits and permissions from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Apparently, Heuring said, no one thought of changing the form’s language.
For Michael Pesa, senior biology major, the project’s troubles aren’t about traffic or noise, but about the turtles and other wildlife that call Lake Ceva home. According to the bid documents, the contractor will be required to remove the fish and other wildlife from Lake Ceva and move them to adjacent Lake Sylva.
Pesa’s concern is for the turtles he worked with in the lake for two years of biology research. Pesa said that while the contractor can try to remove the turtles before or after draining the lake, each way has its pros and cons.
“They’ve been there for 30, 40 years,” Pesa said. “It’d be a shame for (the turtles) to be overlooked.”
The dam has become old and is in need of repair through normal wear and tear, Rudeau said. DEP has been encouraging the College to ensure the project is completed in a timely fashion and takes place as part of a state-wide dam replacement initiative.
The project involves draining the lake down to two feet in the center, a level which the contractor will be required to maintain. Work will then commence on the dam, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, as required by a Ewing Township ordinance.
While the project will entail a lot of work, the end result will leave the lake essentially unchanged.
“After (the lake) is filled back up,” Rudeau said, “it will look the same as it did before.”
The College completed the bidding process for the project Thursday, Oct. 19. It will take a week, Rudeau said, to go through the bids and award the contract. Draining of the lake will begin around mid-November and will be completed by the end of the month. Work will continue through winter without pause. Dam repairs will begin in January. The contractor, Rudeau said, has been told that even in the event of snow, it is to remove the snow and keep on working.
Rudeau emphasized that he intends to bring the project to completion on its deadline of May 31, or even before.