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The Croghan Island Mill  Photo: David Sommerstein
The Croghan Island Mill Photo: David Sommerstein

Croghan dam reclassified as "low risk"

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People working to save the small, historic dam in Croghan from demolition recently got something of a reprieve. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has reclassified the old concrete dam. The two-part structure on the Beaver River was previously listed as "high risk", that could cause death and serious damage if it breached. After the assessment, however, the dam is now considered a low risk structure.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

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Nothing’s actually changed at the Croghan Dam – by all accounts it’s still in really bad shape,

“It’s very badly worn. And really visibly, you can see, that’s it’s probably not a very sound structure.”

Alon Dominitz is chief of the dam safety section at the state conservation department. He says no one had actually studied the safety of the Croghan Dam until recently.  Dominitz says it was classified as a high rsik hazard in the 1980s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

The Lewis County Development Corporation finally commissioned an engineering study last year, which is still ongoing. Dominitz says the study showed that a dam break would not cause loss of life or serious damage to homes, buildings, or roads.

“So the dam is still, we think, in very poor condition, it’s just that the consequence of the dam failure is less then we had originally estimated,” Dominitz says.

But based on the high risk assessment, the state removed stop logs from the dam last summer.  That brought the water level down.

Former Croghan mayor Glen Gagnier is on the board of the Lewis County Development Corporation. 

Gagnier says that was bad for waterfront property owners, for recreation, and for fire protection. 

He says having the dam downgraded to a low risk should alleviate those issues,

“And hopefully will allow as we go ahead with the study to have the stop logs put back in, the water level come back up and the homeowners upstream to have a river in front of their house, and all the other advantages of having water available.”

But Gagnier calls the downgrade is a double edged sword. The Development Corporation raised the money for the initial engineering study, in large part because the dam was considered to be such a hazard.  He says it might be more difficult to find funding to renovate a dam that’s only a low risk.

The engineering study continues. Gagnier hopes they can renovate the dam in the next 3 to 5 years.

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