dam

The Chandler’s Mill Pond Dam has been a recurring subject of annoyance both to the townsfolk of Montross, the people that live near it, and the motorists that pass over the pond bridge. The dam was structurally compromised over five years ago, and as a result, the pond was drained. During that time, site surveys have been conducted, plans drawn up, engineers hired, and eventually, the dam itself was completely rebuilt. This, sadly, would not last.

 In November of last year, heavy rains combined with dead grasses on the bottom of the pond created a clog that did something never before seen—flood over Route 3. The pond was drained once again.

Then, in June of this year, yet more flooding happened when conditions created a perfect storm for a flood that caused the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), which is responsible for managing the dam, to take a step back and draw up plans for yet another redesign of the dam after conducting some emergency repairs.

Discussing the plan

During a meeting at the American Legion Post next to the pond, DWR executive director Ryan Brown, gave locals the low-down on the plan.

“The idea was to illustrate all the various things we could do,” Brown explained to those gathered. “We’ve had some repair work done out there, but we’ll soon get to the point where we can make a decision about which way we’re going to go with the dam. We have talked with the board of supervisors and the town council. Obviously, what would be preferred is that we have a lake, Route 3 is safe from flooding, and we have a dam that won’t fail.”

When it came to keeping Route 3 from flooding, Brown pointed out there was a problem afoot, especially after Route 3 got flooded over even with the dam out of commission back in June.

“The Route 3 Bridge, if you think about it, is a dam,” Brown continued. “It will only pass so much water, and when you get a storm like the one we had in June, Route 3 is going to flood, regardless of whether there’s a dam there or not. We can control how much water passes out of the dam and the impacts to property owners. But when you get a bad enough storm, you can’t control what happens to Route 3. There’s always going to be a tradeoff involving what you have in the lake and the protection of Route 3.”

At present, the fish passage’s foundation has been shored up, and the goal moving forward is to structurally support the exposed sheet pile at the breach point and remove the debris grating that clogged it.

DWR has considered a number of options. But the most attractive was a design of the dam that would result in the permanent pool being lowered by about a foot. This was partly to account for the fact that the new dam, once completed back in August, had the waterline significantly higher than before. Furthermore, there would be another spillway added to help avert or at least delay an overflow in the case of the massive storms like we had back in November and June. This was the favored option because it met with all three of the previous criteria, and also posed the least amount of trouble for property owners.

The other designs do things including dropping the height of the pond by as much as 2 feet, having a much larger spillway, or in one extreme case, decommissioning the dam entirely and letting the Chandler’s Mill Pond fade back into being the Chandler’s Mill Run.

A date has not been given yet for when anything will be set in stone, but once a decision is made, plans will be drawn up, permits will be procured, and with any luck, motorists on Route 3 and the residents along the pond will eventually see water under the bridge once more.