Frequently Asked Questions about Broomall’s Dam and Third Street Bridge
How long has the road been closed?
Since 1996 (16 years), for safety reasons. Broomall’s Dam has been declared unsafe since 1980 by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Is the dam really unsafe?
Yes, it is, though it is not in immediate danger of failing, according to Richard Reisinger, Regional Chief of Dam Safety of the DEP. The dam could fail at any time, though the most likely time is after an extremely heavy rainstorm — a “Noah’s Ark Event,” as he called it. Read more about dam safety.
Broomall’s Dam is a High-Hazard Dam in Poor Condition since 1980. The dam is a High-Hazard Dam in the DEP classification because it can cause loss of human life and substantial property damage. That means when it is rebuilt it will still be a high-hazard dam, but in good condition. 39% of Pennsylvania’s high-hazard dams are considered deficient.
Who owns the dam?
That is not totally clear. John Broomall built the dam in 1883 to harvest ice and create a private, recreational lake, called Broomall’s Lake. Broomall’s Lake Country Club owns the land upstream from the dam, and Delaware County owns Glen Providence Park. Media Borough has historically maintained the road. Learn more about the history of Broomall’s Dam and 3rd Street Bridge.
When the dam was declared in need of major safety upgrades, no owner was willing to come forward, and the three parties were in line to see a judge to contest ownership.
In 2011, Broomall’s Lake Country Club (BLCC), Delaware County and Media Borough Council signed a stipulation that established shared responsibility, and possibly ownership, between the parties. Media Borough would rebuild the dam according to a 1998 document. After reconstruction, Delaware County and Broomall’s Lake Country Club will maintain and operate the dam, and be responsible for an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), while Media Borough will maintain the roadway. *Please note that these are complex legal issues, and Friends of Glen Providence Park is not claiming authoritative knowledge but rather an explanation to the best of our understanding.*
Why can’t they just fix the dam?
The dam can’t be repaired because it was not built according to modern engineering and safety standards. It must either be removed or completely rebuilt as a much larger and more substantial structure. Even “shoring it up” as a stopgap measure would be a waste of time and money, according to the DEP.
Why is it taking so long?
Because of the ownership issues (see above), two public utilities running through it, and because the PennDOT and DEP requirements for building a bridge and a dam are very complex. Media Borough is in line for PennDOT TIP funding and depending on when all the approvals are complete, construction will probably begin in the next two years.
How much will it cost to rebuild the dam?
It is estimated that reconstruction of Broomall’s Dam and rebuilding of the 3rd Street Bridge will cost $3.5-4 million dollars.
Who exactly is paying for the project?
Put simply, Pennsylvania taxpayers.
About 80% of the money is coming from the PennDOT Local Bridge Program, through TIP or the PA State Transportation Improvement Program.
Another 20% is coming from a RACP grant through Senator Pileggi, our state Senator.
Media Borough has contributed various legal and other funds, and Delaware County has so far contributed $75,000.
Can we lose funding?
Not likely at this point. While funding could theoretically be pulled, that would go against the efforts of PennDOT, the DEP, Senator Pileggi, Delaware County and Media Borough to resolve the public safety issue at Broomall’s Dam.
There is no deadline for the project. PennDOT has stated that as long as the project is moving forward (weighing and making decisions count), this project will continue to be funded. Sidney New, the PennDOT project manager, has spoken in some detail about the schedule flows with TIP funding at Borough Council meetings.
Why did Friends of Glen Providence Park support dam removal?
Dam removal would save the 1.1 acres of park that will otherwise be destroyed in the construction of the new dam. This zone will extend 70 feet from the current dam wall. In that zone, all the trees and native plants, habitat, wetlands and trails will be destroyed and filled with “earthfill” to create a large grassy berm that will be the earthen dam. More of the park will be irrevocably damaged by the construction area. Read more about the benefits of dam removal and stream restoration.
Beyond saving public park land, dam removal is less expensive and better for the environment. It’s the most fiscally and environmentally sound choice.
Since Borough Council’s decision to move forward with reconstruction of the dam, Friends of Glen Providence Park has been advocating to save as much of the park as possible (which means a narrow dam), and to preserve the park-like atmosphere on top of the dam with a pedestrian-friendly greenway or parkway that is restricted to automobiles and trucks.
What is a greenway or parkway?
A greenway is a park-like area that supports pedestrian and bicycle travel. A parkway is a tree-lined street that is open to automobiles but has a park-like atmosphere and traffic-calming devices to make the area safe and welcoming for pedestrians and bicycles and other family-friendly and healthy modes of transportation.
Friends of Glen Providence Park supports a greenway or parkway to make a safe, family-friendly area across 3rd Street and to keep the park-like atmosphere that exists there today.
Isn’t this really a NIMBY issue?
No. The Friends of Glen Providence Park petition showed support for a greenway and reducing destruction to the park in all districts of Media Borough and in Upper Providence. Over 800 people signed the petition, from all four precincts of Media Borough, from Upper Providence and elsewhere in Delaware County.
Furthermore, the CAC survey revealed Borough-wide support for dam removal, which was the most popular option. Media Businesses and Broomall’s Lake Country Club owners came in favoring dam removal. There was also strong support for a greenway.
Wasn’t the CAC survey flawed?
The delivery was flawed, but the survey was fairly constructed and the CAC results are valid.
The delivery of the survey apparently had some problems with the US Postal Service, and the envelope was not labeled clearly as a Media Borough Survey. That said, 17% of Media residents and business owners responded, which is certainly a statistically significant snapshot of the community.
The CAC had different viewpoints on the committee as well as a PhD in Political Science who had extensive experience in designing public opinion surveys.
The survey, conservatively read, shows no true mandate for a road versus a greenway. However, the survey clearly shows support for dam removal. Members of Broomall’s Lake Country Club favored dam removal and a greenway. Media Businesses were, at best, divided over the need for a road across Third Street. Emergency vehicle access was strongly supported.
Broomall’s Lake is not what it once was. What will happen to Broomall’s Lake?
Dam reconstruction will not save Broomall’s Lake. While the new dam will hold back whatever is in Broomall’s Lake, the lake itself is in trouble. Broomall’s Lake is filling up with sediment, a simple fact of damming up a stream over 100 years.
Broomall’s Lake will need costly dredging to survive; we have heard to the tune of $1 million. Otherwise it is estimated that it will slowly fill up with earth in the next 10-20 years.
What will happen to the stream and pond in Glen Providence Park?
The construction of a new Broomall’s Dam will not directly affect the flow into the pond in Glen Providence Park. However, the pond and surrounding areas are experiencing some erosion and eutrophication issues, and Delaware County Parks has begun early-stage planning of rehabilitating the area as part of the “wetland swap” when a significant portion of wetlands directly below the dam is destroyed. Small streams and wetlands such as found at Glen Providence Park are proven to be important pieces of a healthy environment.
Friends of Glen Providence Park has begun the first of many (we hope!) streamside buffer plantings, native plants which prevent erosion and enhance wildlife habitat in the park.
What is the big deal? Who really cares?
The decision about the dam and roadway is a 100-year decision for Media Borough and Delaware County. It will affect the character, environment and transportation of Upper Providence and Media for a long time.
A portion of Glen Providence Park may be lost forever, a serene natural valley filled in by an earthen dam. We know that there are very old trees, nesting wood thrushes, valuable wetlands and native plants in the area that is slated to be destroyed.
Friends of Glen Providence Park supports a thorough and thoughtful process to assess the needs and wants of the community, and every opportunity for public input has shown strong support for minimizing damage to the park and prioritizing pedestrians across 3rd Street.
Everyone who wants to share their feelings about this important project should talk to their local council, be it Upper Providence or Media, as well as Delaware County Council. They need to hear from everyone who cares.