PROJECT UPDATE 08/03/22: County Road 629
As many are aware, County Road 629 in Clinton Township, Hunterdon County, has been closed since December 2019, from the corner of Cherry Street and Old Mountain Road to just east of the driveway to the NJDEP “fish labs”. The fish labs are located just east of the parking lot access to the Round Valley Fish and Wildlife Boat Ramp. This was originally proposed as a temporary closure during the construction project on the Round Valley embankments and was authorized by the Hunterdon County Engineering Department at the request of the New Jersey Water Supply Authority (Authority).
Recently, the Authority has had informal conversations with the Hunterdon County Engineering Department, the Borough of Lebanon, and Clinton Township about making the existing temporary closure of County Road 629 permanent. Following the informal discussions, a request for support of the permanent closure was made to the mayors of Lebanon Borough and Clinton Township in advance of a formal request to Hunterdon County. If the closure is approved, the Authority intends, after all construction is complete, to continue to allow public access on the road for pedestrians and bicycles only. Vehicular access would be provided to the emergency staff of Lebanon Borough, Clinton Township, and Hunterdon County, as well as to other appropriate law enforcement agencies, similar to the access that has already been provided to these groups for other Authority-owned secure areas at Round Valley and Spruce Run.
The purpose of this proposed change is to increase the safety of residents downstream and the security of their water supply by protecting the earthen dam under County Route 629 from acts of sabotage or terrorism which could be facilitated by vehicular access to the structure. The Authority has demonstrated its commitment to dam safety by undertaking the current large-scale construction project at Round Valley Reservoir. In a site-specific and confidential study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and Army Corps of Engineers and sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Dam Safety, implementation of access control and vehicular barriers to the Round Valley earthen embankments was recommended for consideration. This study was conducted as a result of the 9/11 attacks and informed the Authority’s various approaches to improve dam safety at Round Valley.
County Road 629 is on the crest of the Round Valley Dike. Failure of any of the three Round Valley dams would have catastrophic impacts on downstream residents and on water supply for more than 1.5 million people in central New Jersey. It is also noted that the Authority has received formal written support of this proposal from the NJDEP’s Bureau of Dam Safety. The Round Valley Dike is the only one of the three embankments (at Round Valley) with unrestricted vehicular access to the crest.
The Authority is in receipt of a letter from the mayor of Clinton Township outlining the concerns of many of the residents of Clinton Township regarding the potential road closure. The mayor also shared the audio from the July 13 meeting of the Town Council.
The following statements are intended to help answer some of the inquiries presented in the letter and at the Clinton Township meeting:
Next Steps: The Authority’s Capital Projects Committee has requested that the Authority obtain an update to the above-noted study. Authority staff have begun discussions with the NJDEP, New Jersey State Police, Homeland Security, and the Army Corps of Engineers to obtain an update to the study specific to the final configuration of the dike following its recent reconstruction. At this point, no further action on the proposed road closure request to the County will proceed until an updated study has been completed and reviewed.
If, following receipt and review of an updated study, the Authority staff determines that closure of the road is warranted to eliminate an unacceptable risk to public health and safety, the matter will be presented at a regular, public Authority meeting for the Authority’s Board’s consideration of a resolution authorizing the Executive Director to make a formal request to the County to vacate the right-of-way to the road. At that time, public comment will be allowed either in person or remotely.
Authority Board meeting schedules, agendas, and connection information for remote access are published on the Authority’s website in advance of each meeting at this link: https://www.njwsa.org/authority-meetings.html.
It is noted that the Authority’s Board of Commissioners would only approve or reject a resolution that would permit the formal request to be made to Hunterdon County to permanently close the road. The Authority Board would also consider the future financial commitments (capital and maintenance costs) by the Authority resulting from a permanent closure, if approved.