Work under way on Morris Mill Dam repairs

County work to rehabilitate Morris Mill Dam is finally under way, after being delayed because of recent heavy rains.

The $1.4 million project, mandated by the Maryland Department of the Environment, will take about one year and close South Division Street between Morris Mill Road and Emily Drive.

A detour will be on Route 13 Business.

“Morris Mill is considered a high hazard dam by the Department of the Environment. It relates to, if it washed out, how many people downstream would be affected,” explained Dallas Baker, Director of the Wicomico County Public Works Department.

“Dams are automatically ranked high hazard depending on how many people are downstream. With that classification, there are certain requirements the Department of the Environment makes us do and what we are doing is bringing the dam up to date to meet those standards,” Baker said.

Work will involve replacing the outfall structure, which is now what Baker called “a glorified chimney” that lets water go down.

A gate will be installed to allow the pond to be lowered prior to storms to prevent washout. Old metal pipe under the road will be replaced and vegetation and trees on the banks cleared.

The embankment will be armored by laying a high-grade AstroTurf with plastic coating on the downstream slope so if water flows over the top of the dam, it won’t cause erosion.

Baker said county officials asked the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources to let them save a sycamore tree that is about 100 years old, but a tree expert examined it and determined it was rotting from the inside and would eventually die.

Baker said there have been inquiries from local residents interested in using the wood from the tree to make a bench or other commemorative item.

Once work is completed, the Morris Mill Dam area will be more open, Baker said, since trees up to the road will be cleared, as well as trees on the downstream embankment.

“You’re not going to see trees 30 feet or more downstream,” Baker said.

Before work began, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver issued a news release stating county officials “appreciate your patience with the date changes however, the contractor is at the mercy of the weather.”

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