The dam at the end of Gabriel Road has been washed out since 2005, when heavy flooding hit the area twice during the spring, and the road to repair has wended through a labyrinth of agencies and interests as the town board sought to repair the dam and let traffic flow across it once again.
To begin with, the dam itself is on private property, but the road that goes over the dam is a town road. In order to fix the dam, the town negotiated with the property owner, Warren Brey, who wanted to restore the pond next to the dam.
Then there was the matter of whether the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was going to have jurisdiction over the reconstruction and, perhaps, the renovation of the pond.
Another agency with an interest in the matter was the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). An application was filed to list the dam as a historic site in 2006. A spokeswoman said, at the time, that because of the application, SHPO has the right to review any plans to repair the dam. Their objective would have been to make sure any repair work does not diminish the dam’s historical value.
There was also interest from the Federal Energy Management Agency, which had been involved with funding of some repairs of the dam prior to 2005, but ultimately required the town to return the funds.
These competing interests slowed progress for a while and, in 2010, current supervisor Dan Sturm started the process over again and approached the DEC again asking that the commission focus only on getting the road open and to put the other issues aside. The road is important for emergency vehicles and there are a number of residents who could use it to get to Jeffersonville but now have to travel several extra miles to get there.
Subsequently, the process of obtaining a Stream Disturbance Permit from the DEC took about two years and included an investigation into whether there were eagles’ nests within a half mile of the dam, which turned out not to be the case.
Now, if all goes according to plan, the dam and road will soon be functioning again. At the Bethel Town Board meeting on March 27, Sturm said that six companies have entered bids to make the repairs at prices that ranged from $63,400 to $147,550; NGS Construction submitted the lowest bid.
Sturm said the money to pay for repairs was available in the highway fund, and that the town had a commitment to opening the road.
“This is one of those things that just has to be done,” he said.
The board voted unanimously to move forward and award the bid to the lowest bidder.
Because of a DEC fishery restriction, construction may not begin until after April 30, and must be completed by September 30, but Sturm said he thought the work would be completed earlier than that, perhaps by early July.