Minerva Town Hall
Town officials here held an emergency meeting Saturday, Oct. 19 to authorize lowering the water level of Lake Minerva in order to inspect the dam.
“The reason we considered it an emergency meeting is with the fall coming, we’re running out of weather to be able to do any kind of work,” Minerva Town Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey said on Oct. 22. “So if we do get in there and there is a need for a repair, we want to have the time to be able to do it responsibly.”
About a year ago, staff from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) inspected the Minerva Lake dam, and they had some concerns.
“They asked us to do a more detailed inspection with our own engineer because they believed that they were seeing some seepage that they really hadn’t seen before,” Corey said.
In the past year, the town has had three engineers look at the dam, and they’ve been monitoring the lake level throughout the summer. Now town officials are working with John Carr from Blue Mountain Engineering in Bangor.
“His take on it was that it needed to be explored, but he does not feel it is as worrisome as perhaps some other people might think,” Corey said.
Therefore, town officials decided not to inspect the dam during the summer, when locals and tourists visit the town beach and campground. A draw-down of the lake during the warmer months could have been devastating to local businesses.
“Minerva Lake is absolutely critical to our summer economy, and it was very frightening to many people, including me, to see the lake level drop. And the time of year, what it would do to the fishery?” Corey said. “So we decided we would wait until the fall.”
Minerva Town Board members also accepted Carr’s report on Oct. 19. In short, Carr asked the town to lower the lake level for a closer inspection. The draw-down of 2-3 feet took place on Monday, Oct. 21, and the inspection was expected to take place later in the week.
“The dam was built as a wood-core dam, so the question is, ‘Is the wood wall in the middle of the dam still in good shape?’” Corey said. “Does it need repair? And how do we understand what is going on with it?”
Around 90 acres in size, Minerva Lake is an artificial body of water, created in the fall of 1931 when the impoundment was built to hold back Jones Brook.
A town-owned beach, playground and campground now line the shore, along with private homes. The beach is named for Francis Donnelly, who first became town supervisor in 1934 and served until his death in 1980.
“It’s a critical piece of water,” Corey said. “I tell people Minerva Lake is our soul. “The school is our heart, the lake is our soul.”