Hearn’s dam replacement project gets state funding

By Lynn R. Parks

The state has put together enough money to replace the dam at Hearn’s Pond. State Sen. Robert Venables (D - Laurel) anticipates that work will begin around the first of the year and will take 30 to 40 work days to complete. Venables said that he began working to find money for the dam replacement after being asked to do so by state Sen. Thurman Adams (D - Bridgeville). The pond is in Adams’ senatorial district but at this time of year, Adams, who owns a feed business, is very busy, Venables said. “I cleared everything with him,” Venables added.

Venables would not say how much money the state is earmarking for the project, for fear that doing so would affect the as yet uncompleted bidding process. He said that the money came from a variety of sources, including his discretionary funds and discretionary funds from Adams, state Rep. Tina Fallon (R - Seaford), state Sen. Patricia Blevins (D - Elsmere) and Senate majority leader Thomas Sharp (D - Pinecrest).
The state has been working toward replacing the dam since it was washed out Aug. 11 following a rainfall of about 8 inches in the Seaford area. Early analysis indicated that hollows in the 89-year-old earthen dike were washed out by the rush of water, allowing the 53-acre pond to drain.

Last month, the state awarded a $43,000 contract to Duffield Associates, Newark, for design of a replacement dam. But even then the state was not sure how it would pay for the project, estimated by state director of soil and water conservation John Hughes to cost between $500,000 and $1 million. “There is no pot of money out there to do this,” Hughes said then. “We are still looking for money. And until it shows up, we can’t put this out to bid.” Venables said that a financing package came together at a meeting held last Tuesday, attended by several legislators and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. “This is the first time in 13 years that I have held a meeting and the governor took the time to show up,” Venables said.

The package came on the heels of a presentation to the governor of a petition, signed by over 500 area residents, demanding that a date be set for completion of a new dam. Several Hearn’s Pond residents visited the governor’s office Wednesday, Oct. 24, to present the petition. “We wanted to get people to state working of the pond and get water back in it,” said Marion D’Armi, who helped organize the petition. “There is a terrible odor coming from the pond, there were terrible mosquitoes and all the wildlife is out there, just walking around in the mud. It is not a pretty sight.”

What used to be Hearn’s Pond is a largely empty hole between Buck’s Branch and Williams Pond. A small stream of water winds through the center of the depression. Green plants that grew up there after the water left are brown now, killed by frost. Sharon and Howard Dhondt moved to Hearn’s Pond three years ago, to enjoy the scenery and the waterfowl that visit the pond. “Now, it is depressing out there,” Sharon Dhondt said. “I avoid looking at it. I don’t want to have to wait five years for something to be done.” But Venables said that the petition had little effect on the state’s efforts to get the pond back. “We did this because we need to do it,” he said. “The way it is now, it is a blight.”

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