Additional funding for construction of a cutoff wall at East Branch Dam has been announced.

In a Nov. 28 press release, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and operates the dam, announced an additional $18.7 million in funding for the project. The money is in addition to $14 million appropriated in the budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

“This is welcome news for residents in Elk County and the surrounding region,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson said in a release. “I applaud the Army Corps Pittsburgh District for working with Congress to ensure that we can continue provide robust funding for critical water infrastructure, which will ultimately keep our communities safe and increase recreational and tourism opportunities throughout the Pennsylvania Wilds.”

The funds are part of a larger increase in appropriations for the Corps’ Pittsburgh District of just under $123.7 million

“These additional funds provide a boost to the regional economy while maintaining and improving our vital water resource infrastructure,” Col. Andrew “Coby” Short, district commander, said in the release. “This will help ensure we fulfill our commitment to reduce flooding, provide reliable navigation, enhance the environment and offer quality recreation for the citizens of the Upper Ohio River Basin.”

The project was necessitated by ongoing seepage issues identified in the 1950s. At the time, a “school bus-sized” void was discovered inside the structure. The issue has been monitored and work has been ongoing to address it since then.

In 2008, a study identified building offset walls, such as the cutoff wall being constructed as part of the current project, as a solution to the seepage issue.

“The additional funds will be used to continue construction of the 2,100-foot long, 260-foot deep concrete cutoff wall within the existing earthen dam to permanently address seepage-related issues,” according to the release.

The project has a tentative completion date in 2020. An original target for completion in 2019 had to be moved back as ongoing work revealed underlying structural issues.

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