KEYSER, W.Va. — The Keyser Water Board voted unanimously Friday to recommend breaching the Limestone Dam to the Keyser City Council when the elected officials meet on Monday.

The dam, which served as a source of water for over half of the city’s customers up until 1986, has been in a state of disrepair since the federal Clean Water Act declared that unfiltered water could no longer be used in municipal water systems.

Since that time, the city officials have consistently been denied grant applications for everything from restoring the dam to developing it for recreational use.

Last month, water distribution supervisor Sonny Gank told the Keyser Mayor and Council that the city has been given an ultimatum of either recertifying the dam or breaching it.

Re-certifying it, he said, would involve restoring it to usable status and would be much too costly for the city.

“Back in 1999, when the last study was done, it was going to cost about a half-million,” he said. “You can imagine what it would be now.”

Breaching the dam will not be without cost either, however.

“Back then, they estimated it would cost $30,000,” Gank said.

The supervisor said the dam, which has a concrete core, will be more costly to breach than a more common earthen impoundment.

On Feb. 12, the city officials placed the issue in the hands of the Water Board, asking that the three-member panel take a look at the alternatives and bring a recommendation back to them.

Friday, the Water Board members said breaching the impoundment was really the only alternative the city has.

“It’s basically a liability for us now,” said Councilman Marq Rice, who serves as the Water Board chairman.

“The state for the past four years has overlooked it because they knew we were applying for grants.

“They’re pushing us now, though, to do something.”

Gank explained that breaching the dam would involve putting in a ditch from the back of the dam toward the front, and then cutting a hole in the breast and lining it with rock, so water could no longer fill it up.

Board member Bill Friend made the motion to recommend breaching the dam.

“We have the money to do it; I think we’re foolish not to do it,” he said.

Board member Walter Bartlett seconded the motion.

“I know we’re probably going to catch some flak over this, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Rice said.

Both Rice and Gank emphasized that the impoundment is not a flood control dam and the loss of its water storage should have no effect on potential flooding conditions.

Rice will present the recommendation on behalf of the Water Board when the Keyser City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Other items on the agenda include residential parking around Potomac State College, fees for the city’s parks and picnic pavilions, and the Keyser-Mineral County Library, along other issues.

The meeting is open to the public.

Liz Beavers can be reached at

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