Sloatsburg neighborhood faces dam repair costs


(Original Publication: January 22, 2008)

SLOATSBURG - It's possible to walk on the dam of Pine Grove's upper lake without knowing it's there.

The presence of the earthen barrier, though, is keenly felt by residents of the community, who are faced with the need to make potentially expensive repairs.

Located in mountains overlooking much of the village, the lake is one of two belonging to a private homeowners' association.

The lower lake, set in a residential neighborhood, is used for swimming and ice skating. There are benches and a walking path. Couples have been married on the grassy shore.

It has the feel of a public park, more so than the upper lake, which is mostly surrounded by woodlands.

Boating and fishing are the primary draws of the upper waterway, also known as Pine Grove Lake .

Several years ago, the community was notified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that the dam needed upgrades.

"We were notified by the DEC that there were certain deficiencies in the dam that we had to address," said Dave McQuillan, president of the Association of Property Owners at Pine Grove Lakes.

The concerns centered on making the dam conform to state guidelines and ensuring that it was sufficient to contain the 3-acre lake.

McQuillan emphasized that the dam withstood torrential rains delivered by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, one of the area's most severe storms.

The dam looks more like a dirt road. Water was flowing slowly yesterday from one spillway, which barely created a trickle down the steep mountainside.

In 2004, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said in a state of the town address that a drainage improvement district would be created to ease the financial burden of the Pine Grove homeowners.

The tax district would give the community access to state and federal grants, St. Lawrence said, "to pay to fix the dam."

It later became questionable whether a tax district could be created, and the homeowners did not request one.

While McQuillan declined to say what upgrades to the dam might cost, he indicated that they were not inconsequential, "especially for a homeowners' association of our size."

The association, formed in 1951, has about 230 member families. It evolved from a private club that was begun in the mid-1930s.

"It's part of Sloatsburg; it's not elitist," said Mayor Carl Wright, a Pine Grove resident since 1968. "There's been dialogue to see what could be done to repair the dam and keep costs down."

Financial assistance from the village or town, though, would only be permitted if there were an imminent threat to public safety, Town Attorney Michael Klein said.

"It's a private dam on privately owned property," Klein said, "so it's the responsibility of the homeowners' association to raise the funds."

The association was having engineering studies done by Maser Consulting of Newburgh.

"Basically, what we're doing now is due diligence," McQuillan said. "We know what needs to be fixed, but there are options and we're working with the engineering company to determine which is best."

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