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No more mining at Hereford Manor, but possible changes in boat registration

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 6:24 p.m.

Mining for coal at the site of the former Hereford Manor lakes? Not going to happen. But a change in how boaters register their crafts? That's a maybe.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials have been looking at both ideas.

The Hereford Manor property in Beaver County was once home to two lakes, both of which initially came to be in the 1950s as a result of a mining operation. In time, the commission took them over. Combined they generated more fishing trips for stocked trout than any other water in the state.

But both waters had to be drained more than a year ago because their dams no longer met safety standards.

The cost of replacing them with one lake has been estimated at $12 million to $15 million. That's money commission officials have said they don't have.

Recently, they had a couple of coal mining companies examine the property to see if there was enough coal left to harvest.

“One thought was to look into further mining the property and, in the process, have the safety issue of some remaining high walls remediated or addressed while perhaps also generating funding to help replace the dams at some point,” said Brian Barner, deputy director of the commission.

The idea didn't pan out. Both companies that assessed the site determined there's not enough coal remaining to make mining profitable, Barner said.

“Therefore, we will not be mining coal at Hereford Manor,” he added.

The commission is looking into the idea of transferring the job of registering boats to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, however.

There are about 350,000 registered boats in Pennsylvania. The commission re-registers about half of them each year. It also handles up to 50,000 transfers — where one boater sells his craft to another — a year.

All told it costs the agency about $1 million to do that work annually.

That's all a fraction of the work PennDOT does. In 2011, the agency registered about 11.5 million vehicles, including about 7.9 million passenger vehicles, according to its 2012 fact book.

Whether it can or should take on boats is a discussion that's ongoing, said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.

“There's been no final decision. But we are exploring the options to see what advantages there might be to partnering with the Fish and Boat Commission,” she said.

Barner said the commission is hoping to have a plan in place by year's end.

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