Update: Whaley Lake Dam

After nearly a month, work on the reconstruction of Whaley Lake Dam resumed on January 26. The project was temporarily delayed because of inclement weather and freezing temperatures. Officials are confident that the long awaited renovation effort will be completed by the end of the year.

Before construction was halted, the project had progressed with the installation of cofferdams, which allowed the area surrounding the foundation to be pumped dry. Using a newly constructed emergency spillway at the site, workers were able to bring in a crane to install 31-foot metal sheets to re-enforce the structure. To comply with current New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) safety standards, the Whaley Lake Dam will ultimately be raised two feet. Previously, the NYSDEC Dam Safety division deemed the structure unsound and classified it as a Class B Hazard. When construction is complete, the structure will adhere to all modern specifications.

With construction once again underway, the focus remains on improving the foundation of the dam. Workers must dig to a depth of seven feet surrounding the foundation, then drain the water using industrial pumps. Low-level pipe will be installed to properly divert water flow, and more metal sheets will be added to the re-enforce the north wall of the dam. All dirt and debris from the existing damn site will be removed and transported through local contractors. Materials will then be taken to nearby Lakeside Park where they will be used to lay a foundation for a new ball field.

The bid for the Whaley Lake Dam reconstruction was awarded to Winn Construction of Amsterdam, NY, before work began in August. “Everything has been going great and according to plan,” says project superintendent Dave Bostwick. “We’re really excited to give people their lake back.”

Officials are optimistic that reconstruction work will be completed by the fall of this year.

Whaley Lake covers roughly 260 acres and is the largest body of water in Dutchess County. The dam was originally constructed in 1853. The structure’s deterioration put the safety of the lake and the surrounding community in jeopardy. In response, property owners created the Whaley Lake Dam District Formation Committee. The group would later partner with the Pawling Town Board and request authorization to create a special taxation district to maintain and repair the dam. The Whaley Lake Dam District was established in 2006.

Following a public hearing last July, the Pawling Town Board unanimously approved a resolution to increase the maximum cost of improvements to the Whaley Lake Dam District to $4.7 million. This approval proved to be the final hurdle, and construction began shortly afterward. “This began as a grassroots movement and evolved into a unique partnership between politicians and the community,” says Town Councilman Phil DeRosa, who has been involved with the Whaley Lake project for nearly 20 years. “The people of the community stood up for what they wanted,” he added.