Just a dam minute there
HONESDALE, PA — The historic Hankins Pond Dam has a very stubborn advocate in Paul Ludick.
The Honesdale businessman, who lives in Mount Pleasant near the dam, had been talking about saving the D&H Canal-era dam and pond with its PA Fish & Boat Commission (FBC) owners for two years before he first came to the county commissioners in 2015. Having declared them to be “high hazard,” and citing flooding concerns at that time, the state had demanded the upgrading or removal of many older dams.
Since then, the dam spillway has been breached, the pond is gone and PennDOT has installed a new 48-inch culvert under State Route 670 to handle the flow of the tributary of the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River, which the dam had impounded, Ludick told the commissioners on September 28. “It doesn’t stop water. The stream goes right through,” he said.
However, the stone walls surrounding the breach are still there, and last month FBC announced its plan to seek a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit to go ahead with “dam embankment demolition… and the construction of the appropriate historical preservation measures.” DEP will accept comments on the permit application until October 13.
The demolition is based on FBC’s requirement that dams must withstand a 100-year flood event, but PennDOT may have an alternative. Ludick said he found in his discussion with a PennDOT engineer that PennDOT’s flood resistance standard is a 25-year flood and that there is precedent for transferring the old dam (which originally had a roadway across its top) into the state highway system.
The dam’s 250-foot-long stone wall and former four-foot spillway dating from the 1830s could be rehabilitated and saved and the former 65-acre pond bed could be re-purposed as a wildlife area. “I’ve had thoughts of an interpretive nature center for tourism. It would be an economic development thing,” he added.
Commissioners Chair Brian Smith was receptive to the effort and suggested that Ludick set up a meeting to include the commissioners, FBC, DEP, state Rep. Jonathan Fritz and state Sen. Lisa Baker. “I’ve been looking at [the former] Reining’s Pond for a long time. Since they ripped it out, it’s the ugliest thing, and this is going to be the same. There’s no one to maintain it,” Smith said.