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NOVEMBER 1, 2016

Witnesses Repair 60-Year-Old Dam in Warwick

Witnesses Repair 60-Year-Old Dam in Warwick

NEW YORK—Jehovah’s Witnesses finished the construction of their new world headquarters in Warwick, New York, in August 2016. In conjunction with the construction plan, the Witnesses have also completed the rehabilitation of the Blue Lake Dam, with the assistance of SUEZ Water New York Inc.

Soon after purchasing the property in 2009, the Witnesses made plans to upgrade the severely deteriorated Blue Lake Dam. The dam (pictured above, in foreground) is adjacent to the Witnesses’ new world headquarters and impounds Blue Lake (also known as Sterling Forest Lake). A subsequent inspection by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed that the dam was leaking water and the gate valve was inoperable. With the 195 homes of The Woodlands at Tuxedo subdivision less than a mile from Blue Lake, the DEC classified the dam as high-hazard.

The Witnesses’ new world headquarters (bottom left) is adjacent to Blue Lake Dam (center right).

Jeffrey Hutchinson, former park manager of Sterling Forest State Park.

“The dam was clearly leaking,” explains Jeffrey Hutchinson, park manager of Sterling Forest State Park at the time, “and if it decided to go, there could have been some serious consequences. All of the homes down at the Woodlands subdivision, or a majority of them, could have been wiped out.”

Robert R. Werner, president of The Woodlands at Tuxedo Homeowners Association, states: “It is clear to me that had Jehovah’s Witnesses not stepped up, this project would not have been done until a failure of the structure had occurred. If that had happened, we would have had potential loss of life and property.”

The Woodlands at Tuxedo subdivision (top left) is less than a mile from the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses (bottom right) and Blue Lake Dam.

“In 2011, the Echo Lake Dam, located less than 30 miles from Blue Lake, failed and wiped out portions of the East Village in Tuxedo, New York,” comments Mr. Hutchinson. Town engineers estimated that 100 million gallons of water rushed down Ramapo River when the Echo Lake Dam gave way. Echo Lake has a surface area of 13 acres (5.2 ha)—less than one eighth the 115-acre (46.5 ha) surface area of Blue Lake.

The Blue Lake Dam, created in 1956, is located on the eastern side of the lake and originally comprised two parts: a main earth dam and a primary concrete spillway. A safety valve, used to lower the water level in the event of an emergency, was also installed at the bottom of the lake.

Richard Devine, chairman of the Witnesses’ Warwick Construction Project Committee, explains: “We are happy that the dam rehabilitation project was successful, and we certainly appreciated the assistance from SUEZ Water. Our construction team shored up the dam, replaced the old, broken valve, added an auxiliary spillway, and raised and fortified the primary concrete spillway. The completion of the project ensures that the dam now meets the codes and industry standards for safety.”

Mr. Hutchinson sums up his overall view of the Witnesses and their work on the project: “You people do a lot of good for the local communities and help out where you can. Your construction quality is first-rate and environmentally conscious.”

Media Contact:

David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, 1-718-560-5000


Watchtower personnel remove the inoperable low-level outlet valve from the bottom of Blue Lake. The valve will safely lower the water level during a flooding emergency.

A new trash rack is installed at the bottom of the lake, which will keep large debris from getting sucked into the outlet valve when it is opened.

Watchtower personnel enlarge the primary spillway. Runoff water from Blue Lake flows over the primary spillway and feeds into a nearby stream.

Watchtower structural workers raise the concrete wings of the primary spillway an additional four feet and repair the structural cracks.

Replacing substandard soil with structural fill specifically formulated for this application. About 25,000 cubic yards (19,000 cu m) of fill was needed to buttress the dam.

A leveler completes the grading and compaction of the engineered fill.

A landscaping team added topsoil and planted native grasses to help blend the dam into the surrounding terrain.