State Fears Major Storm Could Collapse Park Dam

County Ordered To Repair Lake Waterford Structure

February 21, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff writer

The state Department of Natural Resources is ordering Anne Arundel County to repair a dam at a Pasadena park because the 63-year-old structure may not be able to handle flooding from a major storm.

DNR officials yesterday said the Lake Waterford Park dam, which lies on the east side of the 11-acre lake in Pasadena, could collapse if the area is hit with a 10-year storm -- that is, a severe storm that hits, on average, once every 10 years.

Harald Van Aller, geotechnical engineer for the Natural Resourcesdam safety division, said state inspectors responded to a complaint about erosion last November.

Inspectors found that 2-inch clay pipes, intended to allow water to flow to a culvert behind the dam, had failed, causing much of the soil at the dam's base to be washed away.The state contacted county officials, who hired a contractor on a Sunday tocomplete $32,000 in emergency repair work.

After that complaint last fall, Van Aller said, DNR officials reviewed the file on the dam and found its design doesn't meet current standards, which require dams to be able to handle flooding, not only from 10-year storms,but from 100-year storms.

Van Aller said an order will be going out in the next few days requiring the county to make improvements so that the dam will be able to handle a 100-year storm.

There is at least one house in the flood plain, and the dam is a short distance from two arteries, Catherine Avenue and Route 648, that carry heavy traffic, he said.

Jack Keene, chief of construction projects for thecounty Recreation and Parks Department, said that when state officials ordered the emergency repairs last year, the county responded immediately with the $32,000 repair job.

Keene appeared before the county Planning Advisory Board yesterday to request $750,000 in capital funds to drain the lake, replace the spillway and put in a clay base to replace the earthen dam that runs the length of the 300-foot-long dam.

The earthen dam was built in the 1920s. It is 15 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide at the top, state officials said.

Keene told the board that if it doesn't begin work this year on the dam, DNR will order the county to drain the lake. Keene later told reporters the dam remains safe for years to come.

"They're just being cautious, that's their job," Keene said. "Everything is fully functioning now. It's safe, we don't want to raise any red flags."

But DNR officials said the dam's design deficiencies have been brought to the county's attention over the last 10 or 12 years, that the deficiencies have never been corrected, and that the dam's design threatens the safety of those around it.

"The emergency repairs have been fine as far as they go, but a 10-year storm would probably fail it," said Van Aller. He said with such a storm, "there's a good chance that there wouldbe loss of life."

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