Engineering firm LaBella’s report on Fredonia’s water system proposes three options: retain the reservoir and dam infrastructure but make major repairs, decommission it and draw water from the city of Dunkirk and possibly wells, or lower the reservoir and draw water from Dunkirk and possibly fountain.
The latter option was apparently LaBella’s preference, but here’s a look at all three, based on the company’s presentation to the village board of trustees.
Officials promised that the report – with security-related redactions – would be posted on the village’s website after lawyers from Fredonia’s law firm, Webster Szanyi, reviewed it. The report had not yet been published as of Friday morning.
The three options:
– OPTION 1: Maintain the current infrastructure but make significant upgrades in all facets of the system.
Don Lucas of LaBella noted that the dam is considered a high-hazard dam and does not meet state drawdown volume requirements. The current inlet structure would reach the lower outlet of the reservoir in 36 days, well below the state’s required 90% withdrawal in 14 days.
The capacity of the spillway would not be able to handle a possible maximum flood, he added. The dam itself also failed several stability calculations, he said.
To hold the dam, “Building a new dam that meets these requirements meets the expectations of a modern, safe water retention structure.” would be necessary, he said.
According to LaBella’s presentation, the wastewater treatment plant also needs work. A third clarifier, chemical storage and delivery improvements, piping and process control upgrades, and site improvements (including shoring up a nearby bluff) are required.
The reservoir would be “A major construction effort” Lucas said. The spillway would be removed and replaced and the dam crest could be raised slightly.
“It would eliminate liability to the DEC for a dam in, quote, defective condition and put you back on good terms with the DEC with respect to the dam.” Lucas said.
Matt Higgins of LaBella said later “the great professional” This option is for Fredonia to retain complete control of its water system. However, this would be associated with high costs and a high level of regulatory effort.
Total project cost for this option: $34.3 million.
– OPTION 2: Decommissioning the dam.
Lucas said the dam would be decommissioned “A lengthy process” with the participation of numerous engineers and government authorities.
The dam would be removed and the reservoir removed “would be (restored) to a more natural state…a very deliberate restoration of natural habitats for local fish and wildlife.” he said.
“The big clue here is that Fredonia would abandon this water as a water source.” Lucas added. “Realistically speaking, it’s unlikely that you could ever build a dam there again.”
This option would be even more expensive than the first: $38.1 million.
– OPTION 3: Tear down the dam.
Lucas called it “Kind of a middle ground, a little bit.” He said: “Many areas where the dam fails in terms of stability and capacity are related to the amount of water upstream of the dam and how it would handle additional water flow in a flood event.”
“You could design it and check how far you would have to lower this water level so that the calculations would be favorable.”
That should still be there “Significant improvements” at the reservoir. However, “There are very big cost savings” compared to decommissioning or replacing the system.
The village would remain without a source of water. However, Higgins said when LaBella staff spoke with village officials about starting the study, “It has been observed that several communities nearby have very good groundwater supplies, which are then treated and pumped into their distribution system.”
This led to a LaBella hydrogeologist studying the regional geology and identifying locations where wells would be feasible to supply Fredonia’s water.
Three sites were found south of the reservoir in a deep, confined aquifer of sand and gravel. Another is in a 1 to 2 square mile area east of the village in a glacial deposit.
“All indications are that there is a possibility that the average daily demand of 1.32 million gallons could be met by drilling a groundwater supply. Higgins said. However, he noted: “No field investigations were conducted.”
He said there were wells “not presented as a truly equivalent alternative” until such studies were carried out. It would take about six months to get results, he said.
The water could be piped to a new storage tank on Spoden Road. The troubled Webster Road pumping station could be shut down. The Spoden Road tank could be gravity fed, while the Webster Road tank needs to pump water uphill.
Should the village choose to source water from Dunkirk, another line would be required between communities. The village currently has a direct connection to Dunkirk via the Main Street Extension to a pumping station on Vineyard Drive. There are also two indirect connections, with the Dunkirk-supplied North County Water District at either end of the village on Route 20.
However, the two communities share the Vineyard Drive pumping station “is not connected to a main line to the city, but to a branch line, a pipe with a smaller diameter. It’s like the pumps are trying to suck through a straw, so to speak.” Higgins said.
In addition, the station has to be started manually and it takes half an hour until it is online.
In this scenario, LaBella proposes a new 12-inch line from the Dunkirk tank on Willowbrook Avenue to the Village on the SUNY Fredonia campus. A new Fredonia pumping station – possibly next to Dunkirk’s on Willowbrook Avenue – is planned.
Another alternative would require storage tanks at the water treatment plant and on Billie Boulevard.
The third option is the least expensive option: $26 million. The proposed annual cost of $2.96 million to extract water from Dunkirk would be offset by lower capital costs than the other options.
That $2.96 million could be cut in half if the village built its own groundwater wells.
“This would maintain some of the village’s supply through its public water system and also reduce the cost of purchasing water from Dunkirk.” Higgins said.
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