Harrisburg, PA – Due to the recent tragedy on the Susquehanna River, measures to improve safety at the Dock Street Dam have become the focus of Harrisburg area residents.
At least 17 lives have been lost to the dam over the years, but without it the river water level in Harrisburg would be significantly lower in the summer. With no dam, the water levels could drop very low in the recreational areas near city island, almost to the point of being dry in spots, and would provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Therefore, removing the dam is not an option. The mayor recently mentioned that a large scale project to improve the dam is needed, but won’t happen any time soon and will be an expensive undertaking.
One potential solution may be a floating boat barrier that can be drawn back during high water/ tree debris conditions. The barrier would prevent boats from reaching the dam. Of course it would require money and maintenance, but is one of the most cost effective solutions. A barrier may be needed at both sides of the dam. Other ideas include adding more buoys and signage, as well as lighting features. Maureen Maxwell suggested having a boat barrier that would double as a trash collection net to maintain a clean and healthy waterway.
If it saves one life it will be well worth the cost. – Casey Burkins
Some respondents have mentioned that boaters should be more responsible and prepared when on the water. Others believe that the current signs and labeled maps should serve as an adequate warning. While the barrier would provide for improved safety, the impact on the natural beauty of the river may be tarnished by the unsightly view of large bright plastic drums. Environmental impacts must be considered as well.
Is the added expense of a barrier worth the reduction in lives risked?
Could the barrier serve a secondary purpose?
Discussing the overall conditions of the dam, local fisherman Ryan Shea said, “This is the first I’ve heard of an accident like this from below the dam and I’m an avid fisherman around Harrisburg. Above the dam it’s hard to spot you have to know it’s 100 feet in front of last bridge. It sure needs repairs. 20 feet on the east shore have been collapsed for years. I’ve seen a few boats actually go up the dam. Again where are the millions coming from? How long will it take? Planning alone will be years. And then how long will the impact studies and environmental issues take?”
Regarding dam safety on the Susquehanna River, Casey Burkins recalled: “I mentioned something similar for Holtwood decades ago, of course it was stated if you act toward a preventable measure, that recognizes an issue. If you don’t act, then there’s not an obvious issue.”
According to waterway barrier experts, “more people die or are injured in accidents around dams than due to dam failures. Dam owners have a responsibility to safeguard the public.”
Should the risky dam remain as-is until improvements can be made in the long-term future?
Do other options exist?
In response to the initial discussion of the idea to construct a floating barrier, Ken Arnold said, “Who’s paying for it? Nothing wrong with the current signs if you heed the warning!!”
Jason McBride was first to mention the potential buildup of tree debris at the barrier. He also commented, “The forward thinking is good. Too many lives lost.”
Anthony Fisher of the Fairview Township Fire Department says, “Only until it catches trees and gets ripped out. Its called common sense and being responsible.”
James Martin gave his summary of the situation, “This is asinine. You can’t idiot proof the world. It is an absolute shame what has happened to that family..” Martin then went on to say, “Out at night on an unfamiliar water way, this guy drove right into the lower side of dam. He was found with marijuana, boat was over loaded, not wearing PFDs with exception of the child, high water, cold water, time wasted searching on his own before calling 911. Every possible mistake that could of been made, was made.
Most likely this barrier wouldn’t of even been since it was high water. Also the Aquatic club, who maintains the navigational markers on the river, has yet to even put any buoys in this season. To top it off there has never been any type of marker, signs or buoys on the lower side of the dam.”