Dam Receives Award For Engineering Design

The Bear Swamp Dam project received an award from the NJ Alliance For Action. Areas of the dam are seen before and after the work was completed to replace it. (Photo Provided By Howell Township)

  HOWELL – The work and design of the Bear Swamp Dam was recognized when township officials accepted the New Jersey Alliance For Action’s distinguished engineering award.

   The NJ Alliance For Action held an award ceremony where the award was presented. The organization is made up of more than 2,500 of the state’s top corporate, labor, professional, academic and governmental representatives.

  The mission of the Alliance is to improve the state’s economy through the promotion of capital construction and infrastructure investment. 

Photo Provided By Howell Township

  The Alliance has also been recognized as one of the State’s best associations for networking opportunities and each year it hosts more than two dozen meetings on a variety of different subjects featuring speakers and presentations that have included governors, federal and state elected representatives, cabinet officers, authority representatives, labor leaders, and corporate officials.


  The Bear Swamp Pond Dam is located within the Bear Swamp Natural Area just north of Maxim Road and adjacent to the practice football fields off Route 547.

  Mayor Theresa Berger was pleased over the news of the award. “It was a very important project for the community. This is the second year in a row we have received an award from the Alliance. We are honored.”

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   Deputy Township Manager James R. Herrman, who also serves as director of community development said “we are thrilled to receive the 2019 Distinguished Engineering Award from the NJ Alliance for Action as it recognizes our staff and our consultant’s actions and hard work on this project.”

  Reviewing the history of the project Herrman said “the dam was acquired by the Township during an open space purchase of a portion of the old Van Schoick and Murray estates. The dam is an earthen embankment approximately 95 feet long and seven feet high and impounds waters along the North Branch of the Squankum Brook.”

  Herrman added, “it creates a pond currently used for recreation purposes. The outlet structure for the dam was an old corrugated metal pipe that was cut in half and placed vertically in the dam. It functions as a drop inlet spillway with wooden stoplogs used to control the elevation of the pond. Flow from the pond discharged through a 36-inch pipe and fed the stream.

  “The dam was not built to any of today’s standards for dam and outfall construction. The embankment overtopped on numerous occasions and created washouts along the downstream side of the dam. The spillway could only pass 8% of the Spillway Design Flood or 100-year storm event without overtopping the embankment,” Herrman said.

  “This condition can lead to catastrophic dam failures if not properly addressed. Our Department of Public Works employees have filled in these washouts on numerous occasions over the last six years,” Herrman said.

  Herrman noted that during a regular inspection in 2015, “we determined that the dam was in poor condition and required further study in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) – Division of Dam Safety (DSS) guidelines.”

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  A year later, “our consultants performed a full topographic survey, geotechnical assessment, hydrologic and hydraulic analysis and alternatives analysis to determine the best course of action to replace the dam,” Herrman said.

  Herrmann said after numerous discussions with the Township Council and Township Manager, funding was set aside in 2017 to replace the dam. In June 2017, the Township hired local consulting engineer French & Parrello Associates (FPA) for $42,500 to design the replacement dam and obtain permits from the NJDEP-DSS. Plans and permit applications were drawn up over the winter and submitted to NJDEP on March 23, 2018. 

Officials hope the days of flooding will be over. (Photo Provided By Howell Township)

  On Aug. 7, 2018 the NJDEP issued a permit to replace the dam and on Oct. 3, 2018 the agency’s Division of Land Use Regulation issued the freshwater wetlands permit necessary to disturb the ground around the dam for its replacement. 

  “Immediately thereafter we issued the invitation to bid for construction and awarded a contract to Precise Construction, Inc. of Howell in the amount of $497,950 to replace the dam. Construction began in late January 2019 and was substantially complete by the end of April,” Herrman said. 

  Herrman said, “the dam will meet the needs of the Township by providing a stable recreation area on dedicated open space for the next 70 years as anticipated in the design life.  It provides gated vehicular access to the northern portion of the Bear Swamp Natural Area and allows bicyclists, hikers and equestrians access across the stream.” 

  “Council is very proud of our engineer and our professionals. The Bear Swamp project was extremely important to Howell Township. Keeping all areas in Howell environmentally safe and sound is always in the forefront,” Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell said.