Mountain Lakes Project, Princeton University Engineer Awarded Top Honors

The Professional Engineers Society of Mercer County has named Princeton University's Michael E. McKay as the Engineer of the Year and the Mountain Lakes rehabilitation project as the Project of the Year.


Both Princeton and Princeton University were among the honorees at the Professional Engineers Society of Mercer County's 53rd annual awards banquet on Feb. 16. 

The Mountain Lakes Dams rehabilitation project and dredging of the lakes in Princeton was named Project of the Year. It earned honors for French & Parello, PA and Compass Construction, both of which needed to exercise extreme caution to safeguard the environmental and historic aspects during design and construction activities.

Michael E. McKay, Vice President for Facilities at Princeton University was named Engineer of the Year.


Mountain Lakes Project

The Mountain Lakes Dams are location at 80 acre Mountain Lake Preserve, which is comprised of land surrounding two lakes and a pond created by three dams which impound the tributary of Stony Brook. Previous owners included William Penn and Richard Stockton.  The dams were part of Princeton Ice Company’s ice-making operations from the late 19th century to 1929. The lower earthen dam and concrete/stone masonry spillway and “Ice Wall”, where the ice making facilities were located, were built in 1884 to impound water needed for ice formation. As the ice business flourished, the upper concrete/stone masonry dam was built in 1902. In 1987, Princeton Township acquired the property, which is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.  The dam structures had fallen into serious disrepair requiring remedial measures to avoid the possibility of a dam failure.

The project’s construction included:  

  • rehabilitation of the 290’ long upper stone masonry/concrete dam and spillway
  • raising of the 400’ long Lower Earthen Dam to provide 1’ freeboard over the Spillway Design Storm
  • rehabilitation of a stone retaining wall within the dam and construction of a new 385’ long concrete/stone masonry (“ice wall”) on the upstream side of the lower earthen dam
  • reconstruction of the 127’ long stone masonry/concrete spillway at the Lower Earthen Dam
  • construction of a new 148’ long dark concrete wall downstream of lower spillway
  • construction of a concrete cutoff wall and paved concrete apron at the base of the Lower Spillway
  • rehabilitation of the stone culvert and access bridge
  • rehabilitation and reconstruction of a connecting 71’ long concrete retaining wall faced with mortared stone masonry along the downstream channel.

The State Historic Preservation Office and the Princeton Township Historic Preservation Commission required that rehabilitation be consistent with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Rehabilitation, as well as meet NJDEP Dam Safety Standards.

The dams, primarily made of unreinforced concrete and stone masonry, were designed for 19th century loadings. In order for the dams to meet updated design standards, reinforced concrete was chosen and designed to carry the higher design loads. A conventional reinforced concrete wall on a footing dowelled into the bedrock was built behind the dam and walls, so as not to be visible, while the new concrete was faced with the retrieved original stone masonry or new argillite stone masonry from a local quarry to match the color and size of the original stone masonry.

The new mortar for pointing the stone masonry also matched the color, texture and strength of the original mortar.  Together, the reconstructed stone-faced structures provided the historic appearance of the 19thcentury structures within this historic ice-making site. 

The design team included SWM Consulting, which performed hydrology and hydraulic studies; Princeton Hydro, which served as the environmental engineer and completed the bathymetric survey and dredging plans/permits; and Clifford W. Zink, the historic preservation consultant.  


Michael E. McKay, Engineer of the Year


Michael E. McKay, Vice President for Facilities at Princeton University was named Engineer of the Year.

McKay, a 35-year employee of the University, manages the school's Architect’s Office, the Office of Design and Construction, Engineering, Maintenance, Building Services, Real Estate Development, the Customer Service Department and the Facilities Admin Services group.  Under his leadership, a number of major projects have been constructed averaging over $200 million of improvements. Those projects have included Whitman College, Butler College, Frick Chemistry Building and the Neuroscience/Psychology Building that is scheduled to be completed in this spring.  

During McKay's tenure the University has been a leader in sustainable practices and was recently received the Governor’s 2012 Environmental Excellence Award in the Clean Air category. The University was cited for its reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and decisions to install heat recovery units in its cogeneration plant and the construction of the 5.3 megawatt solar collector field in West Windsor.  

The proceeds from this event benefit the Chapter’s Scholarship Fund.  The recipients of this year's $2,000 scholarships are Ikshita Singh at West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School and Justin Giori at Steinert High School.

Other honorees: 

  • The Young Engineer of the Year was Katherine E. Childers of Maser Consulting P.A. in Hamilton.
  • A long-term member of the Chapter was honored with the Government Service Award.  Richard S. Williams, Hamilton Township Engineer and Director of Community Planning and Compliance, received the Government Service Award. 
  • Connie Mercer, Executive Director of HomeFront, received the Citizen of the Year Award.
  • STEM Teacher of the Year Award was David R. Kohler, Chair of the Technology Department at Steinert High School.
  • Arora and Associates, PC and IEW Construction Group were recognized for their work in Mantoloking to rehabilitate in a compressed timeframe and under extremely difficult circumstances the area of NJ Route 35 at its intersection with County Route 528, which had been obliterated by storm surges caused by Superstorm Sandy.   

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