2013-03-21 / Front Page

Meadow Grounds Lake Meeting 6:00 P.M. Thursday

Commissioners urge area residents, concerned anglers to attend
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

NEWS EDITOR

The Fulton County commissioners are hoping to literally pack the house Thursday night when the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission comes to town to discuss its plans to drain and leave Meadow Grounds Lake dry for an indefinite period of time due to deficiencies and ongoing problems with the dam.

On Tuesday, commissioners Rodney McCray, Craig Cutchall and Irvin Dasher told the “News” they are hoping for a “big head count” at the Thursday, March 21, 6 p.m. public meeting at the Mc- Connellsburg High School auditorium. Those numbers should show the PFBC and state legislators that Fulton County and its residents are serious about this issue, the commissioners said.

“We’re very serious about keeping the lake and the water that’s in it,” stated the commissioners, who added they are equally concerned about the protection of life and property of those individuals living downstream from the 204- acre lake.

The meeting is slated to get under way at 6 p.m. and will include a question-and-answer session open to the public.

In preparation for the meeting and to help get some additional answers on the issue, the commissioners have hired Lee Zeger of CES Engineering to perform an inspection of the Roaring Run dam. Zeger briefly appeared before the commissioners this week to hand over a report outlining what he deems are the existing issues. Findings of that report have not yet been made public.

Local resident Martin Hann also sat down with the commissioners to share items he had found online pertinent to dam closures as well as the history of Meadow Grounds Lake and dam.

A dam evaluation summary released by the PFBC Bureau of Engineering in mid-February says that dams, such as Roaring Run, are given a “high hazard” classification as a result of the “potential to cause extensive damage and possible loss of life in the event of dam failure.” A total of 163 residents and 65 homes downstream would be impacted.

The document indicates that no official engineering evaluation of the dam’s seepage problems has ever been conducted, but “water is flowing through the fractured shale foundation that the dam was built upon.”

“If not corrected, these seeps could lead to a serious dam safety condition known as piping. Piping along the abutment-embankment contact is a well-documented type of failure that can occur during normal conditions, known as a sunny day failure,” the document says. A failure could occur unexpectedly without warning and may not be caused by a rainfall event, PFBC engineers say.

Several attempts have been made over the last eight years to help “mitigate” seepage occurring where the dam abutment comes in contact with the embankments on the right and left sides. French drains were installed in 2005 “with little success,” the PFBC admits.

In addition, in June 2011 a sand-filter style of drain was built, and even though it appears to be controlling the ongoing situation it is not slowing the seepage in that area. Almost one year later, heavy flowing water caused damage to one particular gravel drain.

Perhaps the final straw in the matter was in February 2012 when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Division of Dam Safety issued a ruling that the Meadow Grounds dam spillway was “seriously inadequate.” The designation was made as the spillway was only capable of safely passing approximately

52 percent of the probable maximum flood.

It was DEP’s recommendation as a result of these findings that the lake be lowered or completely drained until a “rehabilitation project” is completed. Unfortunately, for avid anglers, who are drawn to the lake as much as for its fishing opportunities as its natural beauty, the lake is tentatively slated to remain empty for an indefinite period of time due to lack of funding. PFBC has said that money has not been located to date and suggested the formation of a conservancy or save the lake group to help finance the project.

PFBC is set to reopen Opposum Lake in Cumberland County later this month after the 59-acre lake was drained in 2008 when routine inspections determined the dam’s spillway had cracks and was leaking. The construction or rebuilt spillway was achieved over a two-year time frame using a combination of local and state money. Of the $3.8 million used, $1.5 million was from the state’s capital budget as secured by their state legislator; $100,000 from Lower Frankford Township; $609,000 from Cumberland County; and PFBC contributed $775,000. Private donations were also made to Friends of Opposum Lake Conservancy in the amount of $100,000 from businesses, foundations and individuals.

The proposed project at Meadow Grounds could cost up to $4 million, according to a “best guesstimate” by PFBC officials.

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