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Unsafe dam to be rebuilt

June 19, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

HANCOCK - The only Washington County dam deemed "unsafe" by the Maryland Department of the Environment will be rebuilt this summer, said Gene Gopenko, water resources engineer with MDE's Dam Safety Division.

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The state agency recently issued the National Park Service permits to rebuild the Long Hollow Dam, which is on Polly Pond off a tributary of the Potomac River near the C&O Canal west of Hancock, Gopenko said.

Long Hollow is one of five federally owned dams in Washington County. The state Dam Safety Division monitors 23 of the county's 30 dams, Gopenko said.

MDE civil engineers conduct routine dam safety inspections on a frequency based upon the dam's age, type, hazard potential, storage volume and condition during previous inspection, he said.

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Engineers rate dams on their conditions - excellent, good, fair, poor or unsafe condition.

Low hazard dams such as Long Hollow are monitored every five years. Failures aren't likely to cause death or property damage, Gopenko said.

The National Park Service decided to rebuild the small dam, circa 1940, because of its historical value, said Bob Hartman, head of maintenance at the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

It is in a swampy wetlands area once used as a holding basin for canal boats, and the isolated area doesn't attract anglers or swimmers, he added.

Three other low hazard dams - at the Tonoloway Rod & Gun Club on the Little Tonoloway Creek, at Kemps Mill on the Conococheague Creek and at the Town of Hancock's sewage lagoon - received "poor" ratings, according to MDE data.

The privately owned Kemps Mill Dam is under repair, Gopenko said.

Nothing is being done to improve the Hancock dam, said Town Manager Louis Close, who was unaware of the rating. No one at the gun club could be reached for comment Monday.

The Dam Safety Division pushes for dam owners to comply with the state agency's recommendations for improvements only when safety is a factor, Gopenko said.

Washington County's four high-hazard dams, the failure of which would result in probable loss of life and severe damage to major roads, utilities and buildings, are monitored each year, he said.

The state-owned Blairs Valley Dam and Greenbrier State Park Dam and Dike, and the federally owned Fort Richie Dam, are rated in "excellent" condition, according to MDE data.

The Warner Gap Hollow Dam, a City of Hagerstown-owned high hazard dam at the Edgemont Reservoir, is rated in "good" condition, MDE data says.

Significant hazard dams are monitored every two years. Their failure would result in possible loss of life, damage to roads and unimproved properties, and interruption of utilities, Gopenko said.

The three significant hazard dams in Washington County - the privately-owned Kurt Sherman Dam, City of Hagerstown-owned Smithsburg Reservoir Dam and the John Oliver Company Dam - are all rated in "fair" condition, according to MDE information.

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