Good solution to dam problem

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

With its preponderance of manmade lakes and ponds, one thing that officials with the Suffolk Department of Public Works should understand is earthen dams.

In Suffolk, a failing dam could result in flooded homes, lost crops, snarled roads and other minor mayhem. In fact, the city experienced a minor version of those traffic problems earlier this month, when all four lanes of Pruden Boulevard were closed near the Lake Meade Medical Center, where the road passes Sadler Pond.

Heavy rains on the last weekend of March caused the dam that holds back the pond to fail, sending water gushing through the culvert that runs underneath the road there to handle overflow. Concerned about the possibility that further disintegration of the embankment could lead to water overwashing Pruden Boulevard, the city shut down the road, forcing travelers to take a long detour to access locations on either side of the closure.

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It was hardly the first time that dam had caused problems. “This dam has been a problem for 50 years,” said Billy Cones, one of two owners of the earthen structure.

City officials got together with the owners to try to come up with a long-term solution to the problem. That solution, which involved lowering a 40-foot section of the dam and replacing it with rocks, will result in a lower level of water in the pond behind the embankment, but it will mean less risk of a catastrophic failure that could wash out the road.

It was a good compromise that appears to have been reached without controversy or complaint from either side. Congratulations and appreciation are due to all of the parties involved.