Construction crews set up camp at Eden Mill Park

January 16, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Contributing Writer

The normally peaceful Eden Mill Park has been transformed into a busy construction site as crews begin repairing and restoring its 18-foot, rock-filled masonry dam.

But by the time warm weather arrives, officials say, a clambucket crane and other heavy equipment will be gone.

Wetlands will be restored, water levels will be raised and recreational activities such as fishing and canoeing will resume at this out-of-the-way park in northern Harford County.

"When the weather breaks, the park should be cleaned up and ready to go with normal programming," said Robert Bailey, supervisor of the Northern District Office of the county Department of Parks and Recreation. "We're interested in getting the canoe program back on track, and we hope to re-establish it and offer as much as we can."

The repair project is on a tight schedule and is proceeding despite recent cold temperatures and snow.

Barring a severe winter storm, it is expected to be completed by late February to minimize the disturbance of fish spawning and stocking in Deer Creek.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed for the weather to cooperate," said John Kane Jr., the county's project manager who is chief of environmental inspection for the Bureau of Construction Inspection of the Department of Public Works.

"The biggest problem with a job like this is that you've always got to contend with the water levels and how much it rained the previous week," he said. "Ninety percent of the job is dealing with water."

A temporary bridge of steel beams and timbers has already been built 100 feet upstream from the dam so equipment and workers can move from one side of the creek to the other.

Efforts are under way to create a dry work area on both sides of the dam, off Fawn Grove Road in Pylesville.

A 15- to 20-foot-tall retaining wall of steel-plated sheeting will soon be placed across the streambed to stop the flow of water before it reaches the dam.

The water will then be redirected into a newly dug, 15-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep diversion channel that will carry it around the back of the dam and on downstream.

Below the dam, several hundred 1 1/2 -ton sandbags will be filled onshore and stacked in the stream to form temporary coffer dams that will seal water out of a work area along the front of the dam.

Pumps will remove any water that leaks into the dry areas.

After both faces of the dam are dry, workers will begin to repair the deteriorated walls surrounding a 6-foot opening in the dam.

They will install a metal slide gate with manual controls to lower or drain the pool. That gate will replace the boards that originally covered the opening and held back the water.

The dam will be inspected at its base for any additional deterioration below the waterline and necessary repairs will be made. Finally, the structure will be resurfaced with concrete to seal and protect it.

"The basic integrity of the dam is quite good but it does need a little protection," said Jerry Linn, a consulting engineer with Buchart Horn Inc. of York, Pa., who was hired by Harford County to manage the project on-site.

"We want to get the area back into recreational use and also be safe," he said.

Harford County officials decided to repair the historic dam about a year ago after concerns arose about the safety of the structure.

The water behind the dam was drained and a series of inspections determined that repairs were needed but there was no imminent danger of collapse or failure.

While the plans were being drawn, permits secured and bids taken for the job, however, the water continued to drain through the opening in the dam.

The park's popular canoeing program had to be suspended because water levels dropped as much as 14 feet -- draining wetlands, uncovering once-submerged fallen trees and exposing the muddy sides and bottom of Deer Creek's streambed.

A $427,800 contract for the job was awarded to Allied Contractors, Inc., of Baltimore late last year. Work began about a month ago.

The first phase of the operation was to remove tons of huge logs that had washed downstream during several severe rainstorms and piled up 25 to 30 feet behind the dam and 6 feet high on top of it. That cleanup took about seven days.

Efforts have been made to minimize the environmental impact at the work site, Mr. Linn said. Sediment control devices are in place and plans have already been made to use the sediment that is collected within the park.

Water levels will be adjusted gradually to meet the ecological needs of the area, he added.

"When the water level has been down for over a year you have to be cautious how you go about it," Mr. Linn said.

"But it won't be long before the wetlands are restored, the beaver are back and the canoes are back," he said.

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