Friday, April 19, 2024

Hardwick Officials Get the Dam Story

Before work began on the Paulina Dam. Photo by Joe Phalon.

The first step in the removal of the Paulina Dam is underway, and Hardwick officials heard a dam progress report at their December township committee meeting. 

Paulina Lake is now six feet lower than it had been, after a notch was chiseled into the dam allowing water to drain. 

Beth Styler Barry of the Nature Conservancy, the agency overseeing the dam removal, said the water was lowered in increments of one foot to allow animal life along the banks to adjust. 

“The main animal we’re concerned about is the turtle,” Barry said. 

During the winter, turtles go through a period of sluggishness that’s not quite hibernation called brumation, Barry said. 

“They go into the mud there. That one foot per day allows them to know if they were in the mud under the water and if the water drops below them,” Barry said.

The turtles would come out and move to the water that was lowered one foot each day.

“But if we were to just do it by six feet that’s too much for them,” Barry said. 

Of more immediate concern to Mayor Chris Jacksic is the impending silt removal that will begin later in 2024 and its impact on local roads. 

Newly exposed soil can be seen along the Paulins Kill north of the Paulina Dam. Hardwick is to the left, Blairstown to the right. Photo by Joe Phalon.

Barry said the silt removal from around the dam will begin in July and that all the material removed from the dam will remain on the site and be relocated. She added that there will be more gravel trucked onto the site when the removal process resumes. 

Jacksic pointed out that water-laden silt is likely to be much heavier than gravel and that he is still concerned about the impact on local roads even when the material is moved locally.

While the dam itself is located entirely within the borders of Blairstown, Hardwick occupies the north banks of the lake formed by the dam beginning about 900 feet to the east.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection determined during the past few years that the dam was in need of millions of dollars in repairs if it were to remain in place. 

Built in 1895, the dam and its generator have powered mills and even a laundry for Blair Academy. Electricity from the dam brought the first electric lights to the school and the village of Blairstown. 

The Nature Conservancy oversaw the removal of the dam further downstream on the Paulins Kill at Columbia in 2019. Since the demolition, the conservancy said, shad and other fish long absent from the river have returned as far upstream as Blairstown. 

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.