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Pond drained, road to close July 23 in Albin Pond project

Thursday, July 12, 2012

At first glance, it may seem as though Albin Pond may have dried up from the lingering drought. However, the pond on Greencastle's northeast side actually has been drained to facilitate reconstruction of the dam. The project will require Albin Pond Road to be closed to through traffic beginning Monday, July 23 for approximately two months.
While the water and fish have disappeared from Albin Pond, contractors appear ready to dive into a project to rehabilitate the dam embankment on Greencastle's northeast side.

JDH Contracting, Plainfield, is undertaking the dam reconstruction work in a nearly half-million-dollar project. At $497,413, JDH submitted the lowest bid on the project, which should be ready to hit full stride within the next two weeks.

The Albin Pond project is being funded by a $530,321 grant received by the City of Greencastle from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).

The first step toward rehabbing the dam was draining the pond, which was accomplished last Friday, project manager Jerry Cain of JDH Contracting said.

Draining Albin Pond, however, wasn't simply a matter of letting the water out and leaving a sea of flopping fish behind.

Years of experience have given Cain and JDH a couple of tricks of the trade to help negate extra work in fish cleanup and avoid the telltale stench of dead fish.

"We've done several of these type projects," Cain told the Banner Graphic, adding he personally has been involved in hundreds of similar situations. "We let the water down slowly, and when we get down to a couple feet of water left, we let it out very quickly."

That, he said, motivates the fish to swim downstream and leave the pond area behind, which is exactly what they did last Friday evening.

"Everybody was picking fish out as fast as they could on the downstream side (of the dam)," Cain said of nearby homeowners.

"That's a little trick we use," he added. "We like to preserve the wildlife, and with a pond that size, that would be an atrocious smell" if the fish were left behind as the last of the water trickled out.

Determining how many fish were in the pond is "anybody's guess," Cain said, indicating the figure likely would be in the thousands.

"But nothing big," he said. "Most of what we saw were two-inch bluegill. There were maybe six or seven bass about four pounds, but that's about all."

Because of silt build-up, the pond had become stagnant, he explained.

"And the big fish don't survive," Cain said. "In talking with homeowners, the said the bigger fish died off about two years ago. With that much silt, it just cuts off the oxygen."

Cain said he returned Monday to check out the drained pond and detected no dead-fish smell. He even followed the creek downstream and was pleased to find no dead fish there either.

The next task for JDH crews will be removing the silt, and then closing Albin Pond Road (beginning Monday, July 23, he said) to dig out the box culvert for replacement.

"There'll be a 60-foot-wide opening in the road," he said, as the project progresses over a 60-day period.

Completion is expected by Oct. 1.

On Aug. 9, Cain said, a "monster crane" will be brought in and set in the roadway to install a big box culvert about 16 feet wide and nine feet tall.

The road will be closed to through traffic (from Round Barn Road to Arlington Street). No one, however, will be blocked from getting in and out of their property, Mayor Sue Murray assured the City Council Tuesday night.

She initially announced that the road closing would commence Monday, July 16, but Cain said that date has been pushed back to July 23.

The Albin Pond dam rehabilitation effort is an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) mandated project. The dam has been classified by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) as a "high hazard dam" due to its age and condition and the proximity of two homes downstream of the embankment.

An uncontrolled breach of the dam could result in damage to property, buildings, roads and utilities as well as potential injury or loss of life, a study indicates.

In 2010, an Emergency Spillway Capacity and Hazard Classification Study on the dam verified the current "high hazard" classification. It noted that runoff from a Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) rainfall event could cause a breach of the dam, and such results could be devastating to infrastructure and homes within the area. Currently, the dam is considered capable of detaining only about 40 percent of that runoff amount.

The Albin Pond dam rehabilitation project includes:

-- Removal of the existing spillway to be replaced with a reinforced concrete drop inlet spillway and reinforced concrete outlet conduit.

-- Flattening of the dam slopes to improve stability and maintainability.

-- Widening of the 20-foot-wide roadway to meet current minimum city standards.

-- Addition of a grass safety berm for pedestrian access and future extension of the existing pedestrian pathway to the west.

The Albin Pond dam embankment was originally constructed in the 19th century as a railbed. As the railroad evolved, a stone arch was laid to allow water and cattle across the right of way.

After that railroad ceased operations early in the 20th century, the bed began being used as a county road. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) erected a hand-laid stone arch drop inlet spillway to impound what is now Albin Pond.

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