Local and state officials discussed the future of Owl Creek's Upper Dam recently as they spent a chilly afternoon touring the dam site.

Rehabilitation of the Upper Owl Creek Dam for the Borough of Tamaqua is about half way done and is expected to be completed by late summer.

On hand during the tour of the construction site were state Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), state Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-124) and a few members of the Tamaqua Borough Council.

"This project has been a long standing issue in Tamaqua," said Micah Gursky, borough council president.

"The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) deemed the dams unsafe and provided us with two options; to either breach or repair them."

Gursky stressed his appreciation to fellow council members who agreed to put the option on the ballot for public vote.

Voters chose to approve the 25-year loan to repair the dams.

Argall said, "Being a high hazard dam, we had an obligation to fix this."

Gurksy added his appreciation to Argall and Knowles, stating, "Without state funding, we couldn't afford to do this."

Argall also recalled many memories at the dam with Boy Scout troops and on the haunted hay rides.

Kevin Steigerwalt, borough manager, stated, "This is a really old dam, and was a water source for some time."

Councilman John Trudich stated, "I'm glad voters chose to repair the dam rather than breaching it."

Some of the work being done at the site include excavating a spillway approach, constructing a 60-foot wide cast-in-place concrete labrynth spillway and pedestrian bridge, relocating access road, constructing a cast-in-place concrete gate stem support structure, installing sluice gate and stem, extend outlet conduits, construct cast-in-place concrete head wall, and reinstall existing signs.

The project also involved the removal to the upper dam's concrete intake tower, control house, sluice gates, trash racks, drain pipes, concrete headwall, spillway walls, slabs, signs and pedestrian bridge.

It also involves the raising of the upper dam up to eight feet with earthfill, thus requiring that the toe of the dam be extended downstream approximately 100 feet with on-site fill.

The water intake house had to be destroyed for a new modern system to be built closer to the breach of the dam.

The upper dam's spillway chute converges with the valve house's drainage channel and eventually drains into the lower dam, which withdraws into the Little Schuylkill River. After final completion of the project, both dams will be closed to allow the reservoirs to fill back up with water and be used for recreational purposes.

The work, financed by the $4.5 million Commonwealth Financing Authority/H20 Borough of Tamaqua Grant, is being done by Performance Construction Services Inc.

"About 15 percent, $915,000, had to be matched by the borough to get the grant," said Gursky.

Construction work on the lower dam is expected to start in the next few weeks and last until January 2013. Work on the lower dam will be done by Alfred Benesch & Company and Schnabel Engineering, the same engineers for the upper dam.

"When work is done on both the upper and lower dams, both reservoirs will be filled back up with water for the community to cherish and enjoy," Gursky said.

"Tamaqua chose to save a valuable water and recreational resource. Now, generations from now will be glad Tamaqua voted to save the dams," added Gursky.