After Pattishall spoke, Molovinsky complimented Wildlands Conservancy “on a full-blown propaganda presentation. It was very well done.”
Molovinsky, who was not accompanied by any group of “save the dam” supporters, accused the conservancy of stacking the deck at the meeting with people who share its position.
He said most people go to the Parkway for its beauty and tranquility “and that’s what that dam provides. That dam is part of the picture at that location.”
Molovinsky said children have been swimming below that dam for 50 years “and there’s never been any problem, never been any danger. The liability issue isn’t relevant, certainly not to the point that they harped on it. There’s never been an incident there, so I don’t think they should have put the fear of God in you in terms of liability.”
Pattishall said the city does not want people swimming there and has posted signs warning them not to do so.
While the conservancy and others argued that removing the dam will improve habitat for fish, Molovinsky said the Little Lehigh is stocked and “the banks of that creek are jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with fishermen when fishing season begins. So obviously there’s no shortage of fish.”
Mario Spagnoletti, who claimed he fishes in that part of the Little Lehigh every day, said the creek contains cold-water-loving native brown trout, not just stocked fish.
He also took issue with Molovinsky’s comment that the conservancy was offering propaganda.
No threat to Robin Hood bridge
In May, Molovinsky warned City Council that removing the dam might jeopardize the Robin Hood bridge that crosses the Little Lehigh just above it.
Pattishall said the conservancy’s engineering investigation took an extensive look at that bridge, which she said was built long before the dam, and determined removing the dam will have no impact on the bridge. She said results of that investigation have been shared with the city’s public works department and indicated city engineers agree with its conclusion.
Is dam historically significant?
Molovinsky initially claimed the federal Works Progress Administration built the dam in 1936, during the Depression.
But Pattishall said the dam is not historic. She said it was built by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1945 to create a flat water area where it could monitor stream flow.
U.S.G.S. still has a water metering station at Robin Hood dam, which Pattishall said will be recalibrated and continue to be used after the dam is removed.
Pattishall said the state’s Historical and Museum Commission has reviewed the project and “officials determined there were no historic impacts at all.”
Molovinsky now argues both the dam and bridge were built in 1941, saying the conservancy has no documentation it was built in 1945.
Sediment threatens water plant?
Molovinsky also is concerned that removing the dam will release sediment trapped above it, which will threaten intakes at the city’s water treatment plant farther downstream.
“There’s not much sediment behind the dam and it would not transport that far downstream,” said Pattishall.
But Mike Siegel, president of the Little Lehigh Watershed Coalition, said the creek just above the dam “is extremely full of silt.”
Joseph McMahon, the city’s former water resources manager, said the water treatment plant temporarily can shut down if sediment from Robin Hood dam migrates that far downstream. McMann said the plant does not need to operate all the time because the city can hold plenty of water in its reservoirs.
Regarding water quality, Molovinsky said a sewer line runs along the creek and overflows in heavy rains, putting large amounts of sewage into the creek. He said the city is under a federal Environmental Protection Agency mandate to correct that situation by next year.
McMahon said those sewage overflows usually happen a couple of times a year and are unrelated to the issue of removing dams. In fact, he said a dam may hold those bacterial pollutants in stagnant warm water where they will reproduce.
Jan Keim of Salisbury Township, a longtime advocate for improving water quality in the Little Lehigh, said she supports removing dams but added Molovinsky “has a great point” about the Robin Hood dam. She suggested removing only the center of the dam.