City, county each have dam repairs planned for this year


Johnson lake dam

Work will be completed on two city water barriers  –  Beaver Dam and Johnson’s Lake —  as county officials decide whether to upgrade or remove the dam at Morris Mill.

The current plan is for a $1.5 million, county-funded project at Morris Mill in Fruitland, that involves replacing the bridge and upgrading the spillway and road.

Work is scheduled for this summer, but Weston Young, director of Public Works, said it’s likely to be delayed as the idea of removing the dam is considered.

Research is ongoing, property owners will be consulted and the environment considered.

“Things live in that pond so we have to be sure that, environmentally, we don’t hurt anything,” Young said.

“It could be complicated because of fish passage there. From a habitat standpoint, the fish can’t get where they are used to going. If we remove it, it would be less regulated by the state because water could flow more freely,” Young said.

The benefit of removing it would be greater safety during severe storms and hurricanes because wind and rain contribute to flooding. Without the dam, the water would go under the bridge and head to the river.

“We want to examine the possibility. We are looking into details because it could be an accident waiting to happen in case of extreme weather,” Young said.

Meantime, work is on schedule for two city dams, said Amanda Pollack, deputy director of the Public Works Department.

Beaver Dam is “an old wooden structure east of Snow Hill Road near the bandstand,” she explained.

“It was built in the ’30s. It’s very old but it’s under the historic easement at City Park, so we will repair it. And, we’ll put a new dam next to it,” she said.

There is a temporary dam there now, erected in  2009 to protect the original one while  design and soil work were done, Pollack said.

The temporary dam has gates that open to control water level.

Once completed, Pollack said it will look very similar to the temporary dam, and have permanent gates to control the water level. It’s lowered by Public Works employees if a storm is imminent, so the park and zoo don’t flood. It won’t be drained, though, since ducks and geese live there.

Dam upgrades involve driving pilings, installing new gates and removing old gates. Work will be done by a marine construction company

The project is in the city’s capital improvement plan and budget for next year. It should take less than a year and cost less than $1.2 million. Once the city’s FY16 budget is passed, work will be put out to bid, Pollack said.

She described Johnson Lake dam as “off the beaten path” and unable to be seen from the road.

“You have to walk through some trees to get to it,” she said, describing it as a large concrete dam with spillway.

The concrete was resurfaced in 2000. This year, a consultant was hired to determine if it needed be resurfaced.

“We don’t operate these gates very often. This is a big, less-sensitive area than at the park,” she explained.

Currently, the gates can only be accessed by boat, and there’s no landing platform. Water is high around the gates, and they were designed to be accessed by boat.

“This dam is in good shape, so it’s a safety improve to access the gates,” Pollack said.

The city budgeted $200,000 for construction, but it hasn’t yet been approved.


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