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Petition fights plans for Ridgewood dam

A petition challenging the city's plan to decommission the Ridgewood Reservoir dam captured nearly 600 signatures.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The state’s dam classifications may not hold back a flood of opposition in Ridgewood.

Nearly 600 people have signed an online petition asking the city Parks Department to abandon its plans to construct channels between the Ridgewood Reservoir’s three basins. The department has maintained it must puncture the basins to comply with state dam regulations ushered in after Hurricane Katrina.

But the Save the Ridgewood Reservoir preservationist group’s petition on change.org urges the state to reclassify the reservoir as a non-hazardous dam and, consequently, prevent the need for the decommissioning project.

“We’re afraid that it will ruin a really great site,” said Gary Comorau, president of the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance. “They’re going to be tearing up hundreds and hundreds of trees and putting a road in there, where there are some endangered plants and animals and wetlands.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation defines a dam as any artificial barrier, including an earthen one, that impounds or may impound water.

The Ridgewood Reservoir supplied water from 1858 to 1959 and then served as a backup water facility until it was decommissioned in 1990, according to Parks officials.

Parks officials say water sits in the second basin.

Still, environmentalists, bird watchers and park patrons argue the dam definition is moot.

Comorau said the clay lining on the basins has eroded, preventing them from filling. He contends it would require 72 inches of rapid rainfall for the basins to flood and no more than 8 inches a day has been recorded in city history.

“They’re talking about spending $6 million to $11 million and closing it for at least two years to remediate something that can’t ever occur,” he said.

Joelle Byrer, Parks’ Queens capital team leader, emphasized during a June meeting that the project was designed to minimize disruption to the ecosystem and give park-goers as much access to the reservoir as possible.

She said the department needed the gravel road so its crews can maintain the channels.

At the time, the city said it planned to put the decommissioning work out to bid in August.

But when asked this week, the department said it did not have a target date for soliciting contractors.

Several elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing), sent a letter asking the governor to reconsider the reservoir’s future late last month.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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