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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Ridgewood Reservoir is gaining some dam support.

The head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation told lawmakers that the city Parks Department requested his agency reclassify the reservoir as a “low hazard” dam, which would obviate the need for a $6 million construction project to prevent flooding.

The reservoir has been listed as a major flood hazard with potential to do damage to its surroundings. In order to minimize the risk of flooding, the Parks Department planned to connect the reservoir’s three basins by creating three large breaches in the reservoir’s surrounding berms.

“If reclassified, the Class A [low flood threat] designation will allow Parks to maintain the reservoir as a dam, without necessitating breaching the structure and all the associated intrusions, such as access-road construction, tree removal and habitat disturbance,” DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens wrote in a Sept. 2 letter.

Martens said his staff felt the downgrade “may be technically justified,” and that the Parks Department is “in the process of submitting additional information to justify this reclassification,” raising the possibility that the reservoir can be fully preserved.

“We share your view that the reservoir is a unique, historic site that over the years has reverted to nature and has become a haven for wildlife, as well as local residents seeking respite from urbanized surroundings,” Martens wrote.

The letter also said that the DEC is developing a schedule to map the wetlands in the three basins of the reservoir, starting early this fall.

This initial work will identify the exact boundaries of each of the wetlands and what conditions exist there.

Even though the letter is a step forward in the fight to save the reservoir, state Sen. Joe Addabbo remains skeptical.

“I will not rest until there is an A classification [low flood risk] letter from the Parks Department in my hand,” Addabbo said. “I am optimistic we will get what we want but just something more definitive.”

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