Cutoff wall project progresses at East Branch

Photo by Amy Cherry — Denise Polizzano, area engineer for the East Branch Dam concrete cutoff wall project, explains details of the project to those attending the annual meeting about the project.
Staff Writer

JOHNSONBURG –– Progress continues at East Branch Dam as crews construct a massive 2,100-ft. long, 260-ft. deep concrete cutoff wall within the existing earthen dam to permanently address seepage-related issues.
A status report on the state of the dam took place during an annual public meeting on Thursday evening at Johnsonburg Area High School where representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Pittsburgh district were on hand to discuss details of the East Branch Dam Safety Initiative.
“We fully anticipate the wall being done by the summer,” said Denise Polizzano, area engineer.
The overall project is scheduled to be completed in 2021, however Polizzano noted the contractor completion date is anticipated for April 2020 and is different than the overall project completion date.
She explained after the wall is completed, the contractor must remove the massive concrete work platform, slated to take place between winter 2019 and 2020. After this, additional smaller projects such as paving, installing a two-lane road across the dam, and new lighting will take place.
“We are already seeing results of the drilling and grouting,” Polizzano said. “I don’t know of any stone we have left unturned.”
An initial assessment of the repair will be conducted in the fall. This will allow officials to determine when the lake pool may be raised.
Steve Fritz, MEGA Project Program Manager, said returning the lake back to pre-2008 levels is dependent on successful completion of the wall and a post implementation evaluation.
“We continue to make progress and have all the funding we need to complete the project,” said Col. Andrew “Coby” Short, USACE Pittsburgh District commander.
In November the project was awarded an additional $18.7 million as part of the fiscal year 2019 President Budget.

For more on this story, see today's publication of the Ridgway Record (Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.)