Latrobe officials OK $60K project aimed at allowing creek to flow freely
The Latrobe Municipal Authority board approved a national nonprofit organization to move forward with design plans for the possible removal of the Kingston Dam on the border of Derry and Unity townships.
Washington-based American Rivers will work with $60,000 allocated for a study that would remove the dam to enable Loyalhanna Creek to flow freely for the first time in almost 100 years.
Kingston Dam, owned by the 8,000 customer authority, is still necessary as a backup water supply for 4 million gallons of water per day, but does not provide flood control along the creek.
The concrete structure has been popular for years with swimmers and sunbathers, although that is prohibited.
Along with ending that liability, the benefits of removing the dam include better water quality, lower water temperature, increased fish population and increased recreation, said Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, associate director for river restoration with the Pittsburgh office of American Rivers.
The project, estimated to cost $150,000, would remove the dam but leave the walls and abutments embedded in the banks of the creek, she said.
“You'll be able to see where the dam was,” Hollingsworth-Segedy said.
The authority estimates about $1.6 million in funding for a new backup supply to add about 6,000 feet of pipe to connect with neighboring water authorities before the dam is removed.
Authority engineer Mark Gera presented an alternatives analysis with preliminary maps and costs to the Latrobe authority showing connections at five places that would ensure up to 3.9 million gallons of water in an emergency drought.
“This is the quickest and the best solution for backup water supply without having our own dam in place, and actually I think it's better because we can probably get more water consistently this way,” he said. “This is a better alternative if it can get funded; if not, we can't take the chance of taking the dam out.”
It would eliminate future costs to rehabilitate the concrete dam, which has cost $60,000 since 1998, said authority Manager Tom Gray.
Authority board member Randall Cook said he was in favor of the project, but wanted to keep customers' costs in mind.
“I'm all for that, I think it's a great idea,” he said. “However, I don't want to be left holding the bag for $1.6 million and all of a sudden have to explain to the community that ‘you're going to have to pay for this,'” he said.
Hollingsworth-Segedy said the organization will work with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association and other funders that have expressed interest such as the R.K. Mellon Foundation and Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
Loyalhanna Watershed Association President Susan Huba could not be reached for comment.
American Rivers is funded in part with government grants as well as foundation money, fundraisers and PennDOT mitigation funds for each waterway affected by construction, she said.
The authority would not be obligated to American Rivers if funding were to fall through, Hollingsworth-Segedy said.
Because of previous investment in improving the watershed — including the creation of the 36-mile Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail, the priority for removal of the Kingston Dam with American Rivers is “really high,” she said.
“That investment in the watershed really catapults this project to the top of the list,” Hollingsworth-Segedy said. “It's an opportunity, it's an apple on the lowest branch of the tree and we don't have to jump to grab it, it's just right there.”
Hollingsworth-Segedy said she allocated funding for the design plan at the beginning of the year and needed to earmark it by July 1 with American Rivers.
The design stage could take between 6 and 12 months, she said. Once the design is completed, more funding partners would be willing to take part in the project.
Gray alerted Hollingsworth-Segedy to the planned replacement of the Route 217 bridge across the Loyalhanna, which is scheduled for spring 2014.
“The bridge needs to take into account the dam or the lack thereof and the dam needs to take into account the fact that the bridge is going to go on,” she said. The organization will work with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and a survey of the effects of any change in the creek's water flow would be completed during the design stage, Hollingsworth-Segedy said.
Kingston Dam was originally used to provide the water supply to the authority, but a 1.4 billion-gallon reservoir in Ligonier Township has supplied up to 7 million gallons of water per day to the authority since 1920.
Hollingsworth-Segedy said the agency is working on 12 dam removals in the next 12 months and 100 dams have been removed in recent years in western Pennsylvania, one of the highest numbers in any state.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff @tribweb.com.
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