Whaley Lake Dam Project Moves Forward

by Tom Walogorsky | Staff Writer On July 21, Pawling took a major step forward in the reconstruction of the Whaley Lake Dam. The Town Board held a special public hearing at the Holmes Whaley Lake Civic Association Building, to address public concern about the project and ultimately voting on a resolution that will provide necessary funding to jumpstart construction.

Addressing a crowd of more than 75 residents and concerned citizens, the Town Board were joined by bond counsel Scott Volkman and Kevin Flood, the senior project manager representing Fuss & O’Neill Inc. Environmental Engineering. The panel provided a comprehensive history of the dam and the process by which they plan to make the necessary renovations.

The current project began in 2006, with the establishment of the Whaley Lake Dam District. This district includes 282 parcels of land that abut or have legal access to the use of Whaley Lake. At the time, the Town began analysis of the dam, which had been condemned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). A study by Fuss & O'Neill found the existing spillway did not meet current design criteria, the stone masonry failed to meet stability standards, and there was uncontrolled seepage at the toe of the dam, among other issues. Earlier this year, Pawling officially obtained ownership of the dam, as well as a parcel of land on State Route 292 that provides access to the site. When the district was established in 2006, a $2.5 million bond was authorized to cover construction, permitting, and design expenses. After costs and partial repayment, $1.35 million of the original funds still remain. This figure was re-evaluated in February of this year, when the dam improvement design was finalized and put out to public bid. The Town now estimates the maximum cost of improvements to the district, including reconstruction of the Whaley Lake Dam to be $4.7 million. In turn, this would revise the annual cost of a single-family residential non-waterfront property upward by $360, and a waterfront property upward by $1,080. To further offset these costs, the Town was also issued a grant by the NYSDEC in the amount of $1 million. The Board scheduled the public hearing to gauge district residents’ support for the resolution to approve the spending increase. Most of those in attendance were supportive of the measure, calling it necessary and long overdue. Several residents voiced concerns that lowering water levels in Whaley Lake will negatively impact recreational boating, and others asked the Board for more accessibility to information on the project through the town website. After addressing all public comments, the Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution to increase the maximum cost of improvements to the Whaley Lake Dam District to $4.7 million. “This has been a long time coming,” said Councilman Phil DeRosa. “It’s been a grass roots effort, from the residents to the politicians to the state officials for almost twenty years. It’s been a great effort.” With this development, construction at the dam could begin within a few weeks, and be completed by the end of 2018. The resolution represents a significant step forward for a project that has long been unresolved for the town. Deputy Supervisor Bill Johnson said of the public hearing: “We were very happy with the outcome. We got a great turnout, and got some very healthy questions. Hopefully next year we'll all be sailing on a smooth lake.”