Design is complete and the project is fully funded.
That's the message that Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, with the organization American Rivers, brought to members of the Conewango Creek Watershed Association regarding the removal of the Hospital Dam on the Conewango Creek near the Warren State Hospital.
The keynote speaker for the CCWA's annual meeting, held Thursday night at the Jamestown Audubon Society, said,"The dam is coming out next summer."
A more specific timeline for removal of the dam, also known as the Sunray Dam, can't be hammered out yet. "We can't do anything until after the middle of May because of the mussel spawning season," Hollingsworth-Segedy said.
As with the Carter Dam, the low-head dam near the confluence of the Conewango Creek and Allegheny River which was removed in 2009, the Hospital Dam project will require a "mussel salvage." She said she is currently coordinating the specifics of that salvage with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Once the mussels on and around the dam have been safely returned to the water, the demolition can begin in earnest. Hollingsworth-Segedy said the dam will be removed sometime between the middle of May and the beginning of October. She estimated that the project will take approximately two weeks "from start to finish," allowing for inclement weather.
The first step in the removal will be pulling the timbers that were used to support the dam, which was originally installed in 1903 to provide a water supply for Warren State Hospital. The rocks that were used to provide additional support will remain. Leaving the rocks will provide ecological benefits as well as eliminate additional costs for removal. "It's a win-win situation," Hollingsworth-Segedy said.
She explained that when she was on site to examine the dam in September, a second dam was found approximately 250 feet above it. No one really knows much about that dam and it is not currently scheduled for removal.
Hollingsworth-Segedy outlined several benefits to the removal. Noting that in her research she learned that four to five people have died in and around the dam since it was constructed, ""this is a very dangerous dam," she claimed. Beyond the public safety issue addressed by removal, additional value will be added to the Carter Dam removal. With both demolished, 27 miles of "Conewango Mainstream" will be dam free, providing greater access for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
She also said 17 species of freshwater mussels will benefit as a result of the dam's removal. Additionally, Hollingsworth-Segedy explained that because the water flows very quickly through the dam, a "velocity barrier" is also addressed.
Total cost of the project is $90,000. The RK Mellon Foundation donated half of the funding and an additional $40,000 was provided by the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, according to Hollingsworth-Segedy. The cost of the design the procedure for removal which was created by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is included in the overall cost.