HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners announced October 3 that the state and county have reached a settlement in the Hankins Pond Dam court injunction that has prevented the demolition …
HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners announced October 3 that the state and county have reached a settlement in the Hankins Pond Dam court injunction that has prevented the demolition of the D&H Canal-era structure.
The county has been working to protect the dam since 2016, when the governor’s office released funds for its remediation. Two years later, after exhausting “informal negotiations and discussions,” the county filed a formal complaint to halt the demolition of the dam.
A final agreement on the ownership and management of the historic property will need the unanimous approval of the PA Fish & Boat Commission (F&BC) Board and the PA Attorney General, but a settlement was fully executed in Wayne County Court on October 2 by the F&BC, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Wayne County. Anticipating the deal’s completion at the October 2 hearing, the commissioners pre-approved an authorizing resolution on September 26.
The F&BC agreed to transfer ownership of approximately 36 acres of the current 109.7-acre parcel in Mt. Pleasant Township—which includes the actual Hankins Dam structure—to Wayne County. The commissioners had hoped that entire parcel would be transferred, but the state retained 73 acres, which will be managed by Wayne on a $1-per-year lease for future recreational development.
“I wasn’t happy about the lease, but they say a negotiation is done in the fairest way when none of the participants are entirely happy,” commissioners’ chair Brian Smith said.
In exchange, the DEP has de-classified the structure—which had been a high-hazard dam—and satisfied the downstream safety concerns expressed by the DEP. “We’re out from under those dam[n] regs,” he said to a smattering of laughter.
Commissioner Joe Adams, who was a prime mover on the project, said the county and DEP have agreed to construct a 24-foot-wide breach and place a pedestrian bridge at the top of this opening. “That’s a lot better than the 150-foot breach originally ordered.”
The county and DEP will construct/create a fire protection catch basin and install a dry hydrant for use by area fire-and-rescue departments. Additionally, for recreational use, there is a small fishing pond on county property as well as several small “fry” ponds, where F&BC once bred fish for stocking. A road extends to the end of the property “that provides an absolutely stunning walk,” Adams said.
Adams credited engineers Joe Hudak and Bill Duggan, who provided technical work and volunteered some time. He also spoke of the difficulty of negotiating with two state agencies in thanking commissioners’ attorney Lee Krause.
Wayne County has submitted a local (gaming) share Monroe County grant application to the Department of Community and Economic Development to assist in the required rehabilitation and re-construction of the dam. Funds from the ACT 13 impact fees, which Wayne receives as a non-gas drilling county and are reserved for recreation and open-space activities, will also be utilized for this project.
“The county, our legislators and many concerned citizens have been working together since an announcement was made in 2016 by the governor’s office that funds for the remediation of the Hankins Pond Dam were released,” read a county statement on the matter. “The agreement reached today will preserve the historic integrity of the Hankins Pond Dam and provide recreational as well as educational and historical education opportunities for future generations of Wayne County residents and visitors,” a county statement concluded.
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