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Wayne Conservation District

Posted on: September 6, 2018

Wayne Judge Grants Injunction at Hankins Pond Dam

A upstream view of the outlet structure at Hankins Pond Dam.

UPDATE: 

The Wayne County Commissioners announced today that Senior Judge Raymond Hamill has issued a Preliminary Injunction to at least temporarily halt the proposed partial demolition of the Hankins Pond Dam, in Mount Pleasant Township, by the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC). The Commissioners had been informed that partial demolition could begin as early as this Monday, Sept. 10.

The motion cites not only the historical significance of the hand-built dam but also notes that the structure has withstood historic storms like those in 1949 and 1955 as well as remnants of hurricanes in 1972, 2004, 2011 and 2012. "The dam did not breach either when full or after it was drained," according to the motion. 

Also, the motion states that the site contains "catch basins" and "sediment basins," which have been used by local fire departments to supply water to their tankers. Should the project proceed as planned, these basins would be eliminated. 

It further suggests that the demolition will remove the historical and architectural significance of the structure, and states that the PA Fish & Boat Commission has not performed any studies indicating the dam's structure is in danger in its present condition or to assess any archeological features at the site. It asks the court to require that the PFBC perform aforementioned studies before any disturbance takes place.

As a result of Senior Judge Hamill’s ruling, no further action can be undertaken to remove any part of the dam, pending a hearing set for Sept. 19.

The County Commissioners remain committed to the goal of preservation of the historic Hankins Pond Dam while protecting residents and property lying downstream.

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HONESDALE – After months of conversations and the gathering of more than 1,000 signatures, the Wayne County Commissioners have learned that the PA Fish & Boat Commission plans to move ahead with plans to demolish a swath of the Hankins Pond Dam beginning on Monday, Sept. 10.

Commissioner Wendell Kay said the county has been unable to reach an agreement with PFBC and the Department of Environmental Protection to find an alternative to the plan to knock down 150 feet of the hand-built dam along Route 670 in Mount Pleasant Township.  

The dam was originally breached in 2013, but DEP still considers it a high hazard dam because of the potential for storm water to build up behind the rest of the structure and possibly endanger life and property downstream should it fail.

At their meeting Thursday, the commissioners authorized Solicitor Lee Krause to seek injunctive relief from the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas, which, if granted, would at least delay the start of the demolition work until a full-blown hearing can be held.

Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith said the county has offered to take over the pond, the dam and the adjoining 120-plus acres, if they would be allowed to find an alternative to the breach. He said they have been told in conversations with the DEP and Fish Commission, that it would take a year to transfer the property, and that the breach would take place anyway. The county would then be allowed to repair it after the fact.

Smith said he is always reluctant to go to litigation, but feels it is necessary to preserve this exceptional and prominent relic of the county’s canal heritage.

Solicitor Krause said injunctions are extraordinary legal remedies, and the county must move quickly if they are going to delay the start of the project by Monday. He noted that the last minute nature of the request stems from the county’s continuing efforts to negotiate an acceptable alternative.

The motion is expected to be filed on Friday morning with a ruling short thereafter.

CUTLINES:

This photograph of the Hankins Pond Dam outlet structure shows the original 2013 breach in the dam to drain the 90-acre pond where the PA Fish & Boat Commission once propagated trout for the state stocking program. Originally, the dam was built by hand in the 1830s to create a reservoir to feed water into the Delaware & Hudson Canal during the dry season. Plans call for 75 feet of the stonework on either side of the existing breach to be demolished.

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