Unexpected damage raises cost of Asher Dam repairs

Repairs to Asher Dam, in Rhinebeck, have been completed nearly three years after the structure was damaged by a one-two punch from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. But the repairs proved costlier than anticipated and exceeded the $150,000 received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2011 to complete the work.

According to Mayor Heath Tortarella, the village is now requesting an additional $25,000 from FEMA for the fixes to the dam, which is at the west end of Crystal Lake, in Legion Park, at the south end of the village.
Initial repairs to valves at the base of the dam used to control the water elevation in Crystal Lake were completed in 2012 at a cost of roughly $70,000.

The final stage of repairs to the dam’s facing, surrounding rip-rap, and a nearby pedestrian bridge were approved by the board in June at a cost of $59,750. When that work was initiated in July, it revealed extensive problems with the dam’s stone facing, according to Tortarella.

“When some of the storm debris and large stones were removed that were lying against the downstream face of the dam, the degree of damage observed was greater than originally estimated,” he told the Observer. He said the repair area on the facing had been increased from 40 square feet to roughly 500.

Those additional repairs, totaling $45,000, were approved at the July 22 village board meeting.
Subsequently, the concrete on the southeast parapet of the dam was found to have deteriorated. The village board was called in for a special meeting July 30 to authorize those repairs, totaling $8,500.

The damage to the parapet is largely due to the aging of the structure, not the 2011 storms, says Tortarella, so most of the cost for that portion of the construction work is unlikely to be included in the FEMA package.

Tortarella said he is unsure when the dam was originally constructed, though it was probably more than 100 years ago. Engineers told him that a round of significant repairs was made to the structure in the 1960s. According to David Miller, President of the Rhinebeck Historical Society, the first dam on that site was constructed in 1715, to power a grist mill built by Henry Beekman. He said a mill in that location appears on an 1867 map but is not visible on maps later in the 1800s, but some kind of dam appears to have been at the site for about 300 years.

FEMA’s original award to repair storm-related damage included a 2013 deadline for completion, but the village requested an extension to September 2015 through the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Jim Reardon, who was mayor at the time, said the delay between the first and second stages of repairs was due to “lack of communication” between the village and FEMA. He told the Observer that the village assumed it had completed all necessary repairs in 2012. He was unaware FEMA expected the additional work until the original deadline for the project approached.

Update: This article was corrected to reflect that David Miller, President of the Rhinebeck Historical Society, said some kind of dam has been on the site for 300 years. The original article misquoted him as saying that a dam did not appear at the location when in fact he said a mill had not appeared at the location in the late 1800’s.

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