The mission of the Clarks Creek Watershed Preservation Association (CCWPA) is to preserve, protect and enhance the environmental integrity of Clarks Creek, and to advocate the conservation and sustainability of its natural resources while promoting restoration and safety within the watershed.
Living with the Dehart Dam: What To Know in Case of an Emergency
All residents of the Watershed living downstream of the DeHart Dam should be aware of the following:
FEMA recommends that you be prepared for a "dam emergency" if you live in the inundation zone of any earthen dam, of which the DeHart Dam is one. See "Living with Dams," a special FEMA on-line publication.
Federal law requires an Emergency Action Plan for all such dams; the DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan outlines an Inundation Zone for the DeHart Dam which is much larger than both the 100 year flood plain and the 500 year flood plain. The Plan shows that an inundation resulting from a DeHart Dam failure will impact 1000 residents, 112 homes, and 11 highway bridges. Because of this great impact, the DeHart Dam has been designated as a High Hazard Dam.
Download the DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan (text of plan only; no maps)
Download the DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan MAPS (separate PDFs from WEST to EAST; these are VERY HIGH RESOLUTION files of overlapping maps in PDF format and may take a while to download, depending on the speed of your connection:
Map 1: mouth of Clarks Creek and Susquehanna River
Map 2: Clarks Creek to Rte. 225 and up Rte. 325 one mile
Map 3: Rte. 325 to 5 miles east of Rte. 225
Map 4: Farther east
Map 5: Farther east
Map 6: State Game Lands area farther east
Map 7: Rte. 325 to the Dam and Reservoir
Map 8: Eastern end of Reservoir
The DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan is a public document which is available at the Middle Paxton Township Building for public review. The maps of the Inundation Zone are not available on line from the Township, but your CCWPA has now created viewable and downloadable PDF versions of these maps (see above). The maps show homes located within the Inundation Zone as black dots; the detail is sufficiently clear to enable you to locate your home on the map, if it is within the zone.
The DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan also shows the evacuation route to be used in the event of a dam failure: State Highway Rte. 325 (Clarks Valley Road) is the official evacuation route for residents to use if the dam fails. However, the maps also clearly show that the inundation will cover Rte. 325 (Clarks Valley Road) in many locations, making safe driving impossible. If a dam failure occurs as the result of an ongoing severe weather emergency, the evacuation route (Rte. 325) will likely already have been flooded.
Finally, the DeHart Dam Emergency Action Plan outlines a notification warning system which relies on an information relay: starting from the dam operator, to the Dauphin County Emergency Communications Center, and finally to all Emergency Responders and designated government officials and agencies. Dauphin County is charged with activating a Media Advisory; the Pennsylvania State Police will be dispatched, and the American Red Cross will set up and operate mass care centers in Halifax Elementary School and Middle Paxton Elementary School.
Actions of the CCWPA Special Committee to Review the Emergency Plan
The Clarks Creek Watershed Preservation Association, in its mission to promote safety within the watershed, urges all residents to be aware of the location of their property in relation to the inundation zone, to prepare for safe evacuation, and to sign up for the emergency alert warning sytem which will be used to signal a catastrophic dam failure.
On September 6, 2012, the Clarks Creek Watershed Preservation Association met with County, Township, and DeHart Dam staff members to present our concerns about the inadequacy of the Emergency Action Plan.
We made three (3) recommendations we feel would improve the plan, which were detailed in a letter sent on February 18, 2013, to all appropriate persons. Those recommendations were:
- All residents whose whose property is located to any extent within the inundation zone should be proactively notified as to the existence of the Emergency Plan (otherwise, how would they know about it?);
- The Evacuation Route should be altered because (as detailed above), Rte. 325 may either already be impassable by the time of a dam failure, or might prove deadly during one; and
- A siren should be used to tell residents to evacuate. In the case of a dam failure, time to act is limited: the engineering graphs show that the inundation will flood many residences within just a few minutes after dam failure.
On April 18, 2013, Middle Paxton Township replied to our letter. However, that reply did not address issues 1 and 2 above, but only indicated that the use of a siren was not acceptable, and that the Township would rely upon the Everbridge Alert System for emergency notification. This alert system notifies residents via telephone, e-mail and text messages; however, it requires residents to sign up and provide notification numbers and e-addresses.
We encourage all residents to sign up for the Everbridge Alert System. Although there is no link to this from the Middle Paxton Township web site, we believe that this link, to the South Central (PA) ALERT Emergency Notification System, will place you on the list. We will update this information as it becomes necessary.
However, we do still recommend that a siren be installed and employed in the case of a dam emergency, and we are still looking for a response from Middle Paxton Township or the other involved entities to our concerns about the insufficiency of the evacuation route and the proactive notification of residents.
Also of interest: The Dam Safety Guidance Manual (a joint publication of many states, including Pennsylvania, FEMA, and other federal agencies).
Also of interest: "Living with Dams" (a 2013 FEMA publication).
For information on how to JOIN the CCWPA, select this link!
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Clarks Creek Watershed Preservation Association • P.O. Box 75 • Dauphin, PA 17018
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