Glade Run Lake restoration advocates 'optimistic'
The $4.3 million Glade Run Lake Dam restoration project is closer than ever to being nearly fully funded by the state, local legislators said.
Three state senators are working together to gain funding from the governor's office to restore the lake in Middlesex Township.
“Because there is such an active local group and the cooperation of the local legislators, I am cautiously optimistic,” said state Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango.
He said $2 million would come from Gov. Tom Corbett's capital budget and the state Fish and Boat Commission would commit $2 million.
The remainder would come from money raised by the Glade Run Lake conservancy, a nonprofit that formed to restore the lake and park, and from a county conservation fund created from Marcellus shale impact fee money.
State Fish and Boat Commission spokesman Eric Levis emphasized that funding from the agency has not been formally committed. But it is a priority to eventually find the $40 million to fix eight dams that the commission owns.
“Putting together funding packages to rebuild dams at these facilities requires funding from a variety of sources, and they come together at different times,” he said. “All of these facilities are important to their community. We want to work with communities and do everything we can to get these facilities rebuilt.”
The state Fish & Boat Commission drained the 52-acre Glade Run Lake in June 2011 because the dam was leaking.
It is one of eight “high-hazard” dams managed by the commission that lack funding for repairs. The commission manages 20 dams that were or are considered unsafe.
The restoration project at Glade Run would involve reconstructing the dam's concrete spillway and reinforcing the embankment.
The dam design and spillway engineering studies are complete, which puts the project on the fast track once funding is available, said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.
“Glade Run Lake is pretty much ready to go, that's what makes it much more attractive when they're looking at lakes to (repair),” he said. “We're a lot closer than I thought we would ever be at this point. That's because the people in that community have worked so hard and that certainly has an influence on us.”
The Glade Run Lake Conservancy formed not long after the lake was drained. Its members have been working feverishly to gain state and local support in hopes of getting funding.
The group has 2,000 members and has raised $170,000 from membership fees, donations and pledges.
“I feel very, very confident. I'm positive that we'll get this done,” said conservancy President Siggy Pehel, of Middlesex. “It's a totally different situation than it was last year.”
Sens. Hutchinson, Vulakovich and Don White, R-Indiana, have been working together to obtain funding for what they consider a regional project, Hutchinson said.
This year, Hutchinson will represent a larger portion of Butler County and White will take over representation of eastern Butler County, including Middlesex Township, as a result of redistricting following the 2010 Census.
“It's a beautiful place,” Hutchinson said. “It's something that is an asset that our state had committed to long ago to build, and it's incumbent upon us to maintain it for the future.”
He said he's hoping the governor will release funding soon. The allocation can be made before the state's 2014-15 budget is passed because Corbett can release capital budget funds on an ad hoc basis, Hutchinson said.
Funding from the governor's office for dam repairs is not unprecedented.
Corbett's 2012-13 budget funded the $6.2 million restoration of the Speedwell Forge Dam in Lancaster County, according to the Fish and Boat Commission. The lake was drained in the fall of 2011.
His office provided partial funding for work at three other dams.
The Butler County Commissioners are evaluating how much they can contribute from the approximately $110,000 in the Marcellus Legacy Fund.
About 40 percent of the impact fee charged to Marcellus shale gas drillers is allocated to each county. The fund is designated for conservation efforts.
Butler County received about $155,000 over the summer, according to state data.
Commissioner William McCarrier said he anticipates that the board of commissioners will allocate funding this month.
“It's an important tourist attraction,” he said. “We need a lot of recreation as the county grows. We need to preserve open space and make it attractive.”
Glade Run was visited more than 16,000 times a year and the resulting fishing and boating economic impact is estimated to be $1.2 million annually, according to the Fish and Boat Commission.
Beyond the lake
Pehel said the conservancy wants to turn the land around the lake into a park by adding a walking path, restrooms and shelters and make it handicapped-accessible.
They've signed a 25-year lease agreement with the Fish and Boat Commission, for $1 per year, so that the group can make improvements.
The conservancy is in the process of separating permits needed for dredging and other improvements from those for the dam so that progress can be made before the lake restoration begins, said Dave Fowler of Middlesex, a conservancy board member and biologist.
A survey of the silt in the lake revealed that minimal dredging will be needed, Fowler said.
“That watershed has been so healthy that over 60 years there has been very little silt deposited,” he said.
The conservancy is working with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to install nesting boxes and restore habitats around the lake, he said.
That includes a nesting platform there for a pair of osprey that formerly nested at Glade Run and return occasionally, Fowler said.
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.