2014-08-21 / Local & State

Be Patient About Lake Project

By John A. Arway




The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) remains committed to the restoration of fishing and boating opportunities at Meadow Grounds Lake. We know the lake is an important recreational resource, and we join Fulton County residents and all of its supporters in their desire to bring it back.

Deficiencies in the lake’s dam forced us to announce the draining of the reservoir in February 2013 until the dam can be rehabilitated to meet current engineering and safety standards. When we drained the lake, we explained that it would remain drawn down indefinitely until funding could be identified and secured to make the necessary repairs.

Since that time, we have been working diligently to conduct further testing and analysis of the facility and evaluate repair alternatives. In fact, the PFBC invested over $60,000 in a geotechnical engineering report in February 2014 to ensure adequate information is available for the design engineers upon initiation of the planned contract. PFBC engineering staff have also been discussing preliminary alternatives with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Dam Safety officials to ensure the project moves quickly.

Coincidentally, within this same timeframe, we have been renegotiating our lease for the property with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. As soon as we finalize the details of the lease, we will commence the process of selecting a design engineer. Past experience has shown us that it can take up to three or four years to secure a design contract, complete the design, and obtain the necessary permit approvals from the DEP’s Division of Dam Safety. After that, it could be an additional two years to complete the repairs, refill the lake and again welcome anglers and boaters.

The process can move more quickly than that, but we think it is important for everyone to know that it can take a long time.

Before we may solicit bids for someone to actually do the work of rebuilding the dam, the Department of General Services (DGS) requires that we secure commitments for the full amount of the repair costs. Meadow Grounds Lake is one of seven high-hazard, unsafe dams across Pennsylvania whose collective price tag is currently nearly $32 million. Getting to the estimated $4-5 million needed to bring back Meadow Grounds Lake will require a team effort and more than one funding stream.

Due to the cost and complexity of high-hazard, unsafe dam projects, we leverage revenues from multiple sources of funding to complete the needed repairs. One of the most important funding streams can be the release of capital budget dollars. Members of the House and Senate regularly authorize projects to receive capital budget funding, and the ultimate decision on whether to release those funds rests with the governor. A primary factor that influences the release of capital budget funds is the extent of local support.

The Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake is leading the way on the local front with its goal of raising $100,000 to contribute toward the cost of the dam rehabilitation.

This contribution is in no way a penalty, as some claim, on the local project advocates. Rather, by demonstrating a willingness to step up financially, supporters show the governor and other elected officials how much value they place on their lake and provide the impetus for the release of state dollars to complete the repairs. This strategy has worked to bring back other lakes, and we are confident it will work at Meadow Grounds.

We thank the Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake for their leadership in raising the $100,000 match and everyone who is contributing toward the achievement of that goal. We are also grateful for Act 89 of 2013, which allows us to leverage proceeds from taxes on motorboat fuel with other funds to address high-hazard, unsafe dams across Pennsylvania.

I would also like to thank our local state legislators, Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. and Rep. Jesse Topper, as well as Senator Richard Alloway II and Representative Mark Keller, for their interest, involvement and unwavering support.

Two things stand out to me about projects like this. One is the need to be patient and not get discouraged. The second is that sustained, positive and persistent outreach from local citizens to elected officials is the most important part of moving a large project like this to the top of the list of funding priorities.

If we do those things as we have done for other similar lakes throughout our commonwealth, I am confident that together we can restore this local, regional and statewide treasure that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy.

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