Your tax-deductible contribution to help us Save Black Bass Dam, one of the oldest still standing in the Ozarks, will also help in preserving a nearly 120 year-old, 9-acre, spring-fed lake that is the centerpiece of a serene 200-acre park inside the city limits of Eureka Springs.
Undiscovered by many visitors to our quaint village, many locals know and avail themselves of the hiking and mountain biking (over a mile-and-a-half of first-class trails), picnicking, fishing, floating, and quiet reflection that it offers.
Stone needed to repair the dam is, incredibly, still available from the same quarry (now Ozark Southern Stone in the nearby town of Beaver) used for the original construction of the dam and most of the historic district of downtown Eureka Springs. Estimated costs to repair the dam range from $200,000 to $400,000, depending on engineered plans and specifications ultimately chosen. This is money that a small village of just over 2,000 residents just does not have.
Another option is to demolish and decommission the dam. That has the ring of an easy way out, but a local contractor has placed a cost estimate of approximately $150,000 just to remove enough of the dam to allow a natural creek to re-establish. In addition, the valley would have to be re-vegetated, and sediment traps installed and maintained to deal with 120 years of sediment load. This option could very easily turn into a very expensive and long-lived eyesore.
As the local population grew, so did it's need for water. The beautiful little valley that now holds Black Bass Lake has long contributed to the progress and well being of Eureka Springs. To let the dam fail would be a benchmark in allowing all that been so earnestly and faithfully preserved in and around our Victorian hamlet to deteriorate, as evidenced by other infrastructure challenges now being faced. Perhaps, the preservation of such a vital part of this communities history could serve as a touchstone in the effort to save all that is Eureka Springs.
In 1981, Black Bass Dam was inspected as a part of a program sponsored by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to inspect high hazard dams in the United States, and was found then to be in a general state of deterioration.
More recently, in a Dam Inspection Report, performed by Richard K. Frithiof, P.E. and Richard Dee Purkeypile, P.E., dated November 2, 2009, the authors state that "it should be noted that the original design of the dam considered that the stone fascia would act as armor during an over-topping event. The effectiveness of the armor depended on the stone blocks being mortared in place. Over the years, due to seepage through the structure, freeze-thaw conditions as well as just general weathering; nearly all the mortar is missing. In many places the mortar once provided some bearing capacity between stones. With mortar missing, the stones have shifted and in many places have collapsed and fallen off of the downstream face of the dam. Half of the buttresses that once supported the top three feet of the dam crest have collapsed; thereby leaving the top walkway area partially unsupported. As the quasi-cementitious fill material behind the stone fascia becomes more exposed to the elements (especially rainfall events), more rocks begin to fall off the face. The failure rate appears to be accelerating."
Certainly, as you can tell by the photo below, the time to act in order to Save Black Bass Dam is now. As Richard Dee Purkeypile, P.E., a dam specialist, citizen and alderman of Eureka Springs succinctly states: "The dam is continuing to deteriorate and will one day fail".
Since we are just getting started with efforts to Save Black Bass Dam, we are also in need of local goods and services that we might offer as additional incentives towards generating donations; such as a logo, t-shirts or discounts for local attractions and lodging. Please see contacts below if this is something that interests you or your business.
If you have ever been touched by the pristine beauty and serenity of Black Bass Lake, or would just like to help preserve it for future generations, then please make a donation today. Will it be here tomorrow?
Update: March 13, 2015
The attached photo shows the continued deterioration of Black Bass Dam.
The center mortared rock buttress wall has completely collapsed, sometime this last winter.