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Carroll commissioners vote to move forward with plans to repair Piney Run Dam, not tapping into water supply

Anglers take advantage of mild weather Wednesday at Piney Run lake in Eldersburg March 3, 2021. Piney Run Park opened the lake to boats for the season March 1, and is open for late night fishing from 6 p.m. to midnight every first Friday of the month during its open season beginning Friday.
Anglers take advantage of mild weather Wednesday at Piney Run lake in Eldersburg March 3, 2021. Piney Run Park opened the lake to boats for the season March 1, and is open for late night fishing from 6 p.m. to midnight every first Friday of the month during its open season beginning Friday. (Dylan Slagle)

Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with plans to repair Piney Run Dam and to not pursue tapping into Piney Run reservoir as a water source at this time. The decision does not preclude the commissioners from seeking to use the reservoir as a water source at a later date.

The decision to move forward with repairing the dam involves raising the dam, widening the spillway, and to armor the downstream end of the auxiliary spillway with concrete.

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Previously, the commissioners were presented with the findings of a study that was requested by the Maryland Department of the Environment after an annual inspection.

The study found weaknesses in the dam — the dam’s spillway does not have the capacity of passing storm water without overtopping the dam and in the scenario of extreme weather, the dam would be over the top by several feet. The study also found that the spillway is in fact erodible, as a result of being built on a combination of soil and highly weathered rock.

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Commissioners were presented with two alternatives, to strictly focus on compliance with MDE for dam repair or to repair the dam and tap into the reservoir as a water source.

After two public hearings on Thursday and a public outreach campaign by the department of Land and Resource management, Christopher Heyn, Bureau Chief of Resource Management, says that Carroll County residents overwhelmingly supported alternative one.

“I have not had a single person indicate that they oppose alternative one,” Heyn said. “The public opinion overwhelmingly supports alternative one, and does not want alternative two.”

Heyn said each hearing had at least 40 people and that he received over 50 emails expressing concern over the draining of the reservoir.

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Freddie Dorrance of Owings Mills tries his luck at Piney Run lake in Eldersburg March 3, 2021. Piney Run Park opened the lake to boats for the season March 1, and is open for late night fishing from 6 p.m. to midnight every first Friday of the month during its open season beginning Friday.
Freddie Dorrance of Owings Mills tries his luck at Piney Run lake in Eldersburg March 3, 2021. Piney Run Park opened the lake to boats for the season March 1, and is open for late night fishing from 6 p.m. to midnight every first Friday of the month during its open season beginning Friday. (Dylan Slagle)

The decision to move forward with alternative one will incur a lower investment from the county, address MDE’s concerns and request for compliance for public safety, has the potential to be covered by a Natural Resources Conservation Services grant, has minimal impact to the reservoir during the construction and does not preclude the county from seeking to tap into water supply use in the future.

Heyn said that the funding from NRCS could potentially fund 100% of design work and 60% of construction.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R- District 3, said an environmental study will be done before work is started.

“Rest assured, the environment is being taken into consideration,” Frazier said.

According to a news release from the county, the next step in the watershed study is the production of final documentation for review and approval by NRCS. The county anticipated to hear back from NRCS in April 2022. Engineering design and permitting is anticipated to take approximately 2 years and the county will then be able to apply for futher grant funding from NRCS to cover 65% of the construction costs, which are currently estimated to be around $7.5 million.

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