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Dam at Ravine Drive in Jeopardy, Officials Say; Road May Collapse

Ravine Drive is closed indefinitely, from Matawan Ave. to Wykoff Street

Rising waters from Hurricane Irene have caused a partial break in the dam on Lake Lefferts, along Matawan's Ravine Drive, forcing the borough to close a key portion of the road indefinitely.

Fire department personnel responded to the break. Fire Chief Zoltan Varsanyi described the activity as precautionary because the area still faced another wave of heavy rain and wind from the back end of the storm.

"Hurricane water is overflowing the lake; the dam can't hold it. The dam's failing," Washington Engine First Lt. Chris Lambrose said at the scene. "It washed out the road on Ravine Drive."

Borough Mayor Paul Buccellato and a county engineer were also on hand, assessing the extent of the damage. It was soon determined that Ravine Drive would have to remain closed between Matawan Ave. and Wykoff Street until further notice. Residents were being notified in automated phone calls from the borough, late into the afternoon.

"It's a major thoroughfare," Lambrose said. "It will definitely cut off a big chunk of the town."

The dam is scheduled to be part of a long-term $10-million reconstruction project, with costs split between Matawan Borough and Monmouth County. Discussing the project in January, County Engineer Joseph Ettore told The Independent that the 84-year-old concrete bridge over Ravine Drive at Lake Lefforts was not in urgent need of replacement but should logically be upgraded as part of the dam reconstruction. The bridge repair is to be covered by the county's $6 million share of the total cost.

"Looks like they're going to have to replace the dam," Lambrose said Sunday. "A little sooner than they thought."

Earlier in the morning, emergency responders reported making a "water rescue" at the scene, coming to the aid of an unidentified male who was not injured in the incident.

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