Contractors are in full swing as they perform major improvements and additions to both the upper and lower dams of the Owl Creek Reservoir in Tamaqua.

Work on the dam is being done following an inspection of dams by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which deemed the dams unsafe and provided the borough with the optionof either breaching or repairing them.

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

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

The current project also involves the removal of the upper dam's concrete intake tower, control house, sluice gates, trash racks, drain pipes, concrete head wall, spillway walls, slabs, signs and pedestrian bridge.

It also involves the raising of the upper dam to eight feet with earth fill, 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 refill 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 Micah Gursky, president, Tamaqua Borough Council.

Work on the lower dam is being 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."

Rehabilitation of the upper dam is expected to be completed by early fall, while construction of the lower dam is anticipated to be finished in early 2013.