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Frye: Mammoth Lake may see repairs

| Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

To get a look at Mammoth Lake's future, you need look to North Park Lake's past.

The latter was an oversized mud puddle, weed-choked and growing increasingly shallow, when it was drained in 2009.

Over the next three years, tons of accumulated silt were dredged from its basin. Habitat structures were installed. Fish — from largemouth bass and bluegill fingerlings to adult trout — were stocked in time for angling to resume in spring 2012.

It's been a better, more popular place to fish since, with its best days yet ahead.

“We're happy with it,” said Andy Baechle, director of Allegheny County's parks department. “The fishing isn't going to be completely back for a little while yet. But I'd say that in a few more years, it's going to be some of the best fishing around.”

At 25 acres, Mammoth Lake is about one-quarter the size of North Park Lake. But it's facing some of the same woes.

“It's been slowly filling up since the 1970s,” said Malcolm Sias, Westmoreland County's parks and recreation director.

Several years ago, the county attempted to address that by raising the dam breast by 18 inches to hold back more water. That proved a temporary fix.

“I think we've now reached the point where when we do anything, we're going to have to completely drain the lake,” Sias said.

The county is working with an engineer to determine how best to do that, what it would cost and what to do with the 100,000 cubic yards of “pudding-like goop” that will result, Sias said. The county is also looking at how it might install fish habitat structures, develop launches for canoes and kayaks, and build a sediment bay that would capture silt in the future.

Money is an issue, however. The cost of dredging and restoring the lake initially was thought to be in the $500,000 range. Now it likely will be more, Sias said.

“We don't have the money to do everything,” Sias said.

He is hoping that, with a definitive restoration plan in place, the county can add state and foundation grants to the money it can come up with to pay for the work. The goal is to find funding in 2014, do the work in 2015 — starting in June, after trout season — and finish it as quickly as possible.

“The lake gets a huge amount of use. It's a big tradition in that area,” Sias said. “It's a key part of that (park), so we've got to find a way to make this happen.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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