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Compromised Dam
Prompts Evacuation

By Jeanne Sager and Nathan Mayberg
SWINGING BRIDGE — May 6, 2005 – Residents of the areas nearest the Swinging Bridge Reservoir had a scare early Thursday morning.
A sinkhole, 40 feet wide and 2 feet deep, discovered during regular maintenance by an employee of reservoir owner Mirant Bowline, prompted an investigation into the structural integrity of the dam.
That investigation spurred New York State Police to issue a warning at 8 a.m. to Town of Lumberland Supervisor John LiGreci about possible damage to the dam and flooding.
LiGreci swung into action, declaring a state of emergency and advising 25 different homeowners along Routes 97 and 31 to evacuate.
According to LiGreci, the fear – especially after recent torrential downpours – was that if the Swinging Bridge dam did give way, the Rio Dam would not be able to hold, creating what LiGreci called a possible “tidal wave.”.
Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic said the county also responded, with help from local police and fire officials as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Park Service.
Mirant called in its engineers who said there was “no imminent danger of collapse,” Martinkovic said.
The cause of the sinkhole was determined to be a result of undermining to the dam, but the situation did not seem to be worsening as the day progressed. The company’s engineers are continuing to monitor the situation, and Mirant began lowering the dam level as a proactive measure.
“They’ve opened the floodgates, which will bring it down about 4 feet,” he said.
Martinkovic said there are no homes directly in the path of the water from Swinging Bridge. Despite a busy morning, Martinkovic said the findings spell good news for everyone except folks who planned on a boating trip this weekend.

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