2011-06-23 / Front Page

Low Meadow Grounds Lake Could Take Weeks To Refill

PFBC estimates dam repairs at $2.25 million
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

Water levels at Meadow Grounds Lake have dropped by several feet, leaving anglers dismayed at the conditions of the popular, local fishing destination. However, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials seem optimistic they will soon be able to replace the barrier needed to retain water levels that will naturally refill.

On Friday, PFBC press secretary Eric “Rick” Levis told the “News” the commission’s engineers had previously fixed a drainage area around the dam. Excessive rain water had prevented backfill material from properly hardening, but they expected it to be properly hardened by the end of the weekend.

“At that point, we will begin to replace the stop logs which hold back the water. We estimate that the lake will refill naturally at a rate of about 1 to 1.5 feet per week. It’s currently drawn down by about five feet, so it will take four to five weeks to refill,” said Levis.

Levis reported earlier in the month, while waiting on a response from commission engineers, the PFBC manages a total of 55 dams across the commonwealth. Of those numbers, 37 dams, including Meadow Grounds Lake, are deemed “high-hazard” by the Department of Environmental Protection.

According to Levis, a highhazard dam is defined as a dam that is unable to handle 50 percent of the estimated maximum precipitation an area could receive. If a dam would fail, there would be significant risk to property damage and loss of life.

“Of the 37 high-hazard dams, 16 are considered unsafe because of structural issues such as cracks and erosion underneath. These 16 are the commission’s top priority for repairs,” said Levis, who added Meadow Grounds Lake dam is not on that list. “As such, we do not have plans in place to fix it.”

Levis stated the commission has estimated the needed repairs at $2.25 million, but the project remains unfunded and without a timetable for repair. Referencing efforts at Opposum Lake dam and Leaser Lake dam, he indicated the key to fixing dams such as Meadow Grounds Lake dam is “cooperation among state and local groups and fundraising from local organizations.”

“The PFBC simply does not have the revenue to fix all of these,” Levis said. “ ... In Cumberland County, Opposum Lake dam is being rebuilt after the local township contributed money and a local group raised funds. In Lehigh County, Leaser Lake dam is being rebuilt. In this case, the county contributed $500,000 to the project. With these funds, and money from our budget, we were able to move forward with the repairs.”

“Ideally, this is the best model for ultimately fixing Meadow Grounds,” he concluded.

Responding to Levis’ suggestion for a local financial contribution, Ayr Township Supervisor Gary “Punch” Hopkins stated the suggestion to spend local taxpayer money to benefit a PFBC project was “insane.”

Hopkins went on to say that type of situation would “not happen here.”

“There is no way we could fund something like that. We don’t have money rolling in hand over fist,” said the supervisor, who noted Ayr Township remains committed to being conscientious about spending and finances.

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