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Upper Owl Creek Dam is nearing completion

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Construction workers are almost done with the work to the Owl Creek Dam Reservoir's upper dam.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Construction workers are almost done with the work to the Owl Creek Dam Reservoir's upper dam.
Published October 15. 2012 05:05PM

Water levels have started to rise again as contractors are just about done with the final stage of construction of the Upper Owl Creek Dam.

"Contractors should be done construction at the upper dam and reservoir by the end of the month," said Rob Jones, Tamaqua's Public Works Director. "The new dam and spillway has added improved capacity to handle 100-year flood."

Work on both dams was required following an inspection of dams by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which deemed the dams unsafe and provided the borough with the option of either breaching or repairing them. Voters in Tamaqua later chose to approve a 25-year loan to repair the dams.

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

The massive project also included raising the upper dam to eight feet with earth fill. This required that the toe of the dam be extended downstream approximately 100 feet with on-site fill.

The famous water intake house had to be destroyed for a 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.

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

About 15 percent, $915,000, was matched by the borough to get the grant.

Work on the lower dam is being done by Alfred Benesch & Company and Schnabel Engineering, the same engineers for the upper dam.

Even though the Fish and Game Commission recently stocked the upper dam with about 3,000 smallmouth bass fingerlings, both dams are still closed to the public until posted otherwise.

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.

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