Friday, March 22, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake Drawdown Faces Public Resistance

State Senator John Eichelberger Faces Concerned Citizens At Central Fulton High School
Last evening, March 21sh, The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, (PFBC) held a public meeting at Central Fulton High School in McConnellsburg to explain the reasons for the total Drawdown of Meadow Grounds Lake, which is located in a valley nestled high in the nearby mountains of Southcentral Pennsylvania.  For a bit of background on this and great photos of the area please visit the Country Captures Blog and be certain to read the post, "Meadow Grounds Lake: Good-bye Old Friend".

State Senator John Eichelberger
The meeting was moderated by State Senator John Eichelberger and  began with a presentation by officials from the PFBC and The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which gave an overview and brief history of Meadow Grounds Lake.

PFBC Employee Giving Presentation

Roger Adams: Chief -Division of Dam Safety-DEP
Officials then went on to explain why they are implementing a total Drawdown of the lake. The following points were stressed: 163 downstream residents are at risk if there is a total dam failure, but according to the Power-point presentation ,the current condition is not "A Dam Hazard Emergency", Dam Deficiencies  that exist are: uncontrolled seepage on the right side of the spillway outlet, Inadequate spillway-56% of required capacity. The dam is considered "Unsafe", the draining of the reservoir greatly lessens the risk of dam failure. Draining of the reservoir halts further damage to the embankment and foundation from seepage. Reservoir needs to be drained to do the repair.

At the conclusion of the presentation Senator Eichelberger invited comments or questions from the Fulton County Commissioners. Commissioner, Rodney McCray took the floor and asked state officials to clarify for his understanding that this is two problems, a seepage  problem and a spillway problem, which they agreed was correct.   McCray went on say,"I know that this is going to be an ongoing conversation  between our office and the departments so I want to frame my questions very carefully because I want to be able to carry on a conversation in the future".  McCray asked by for a show of hands from the officials if they had in fact personally visited the dam site and all indicated they had. McCray further stated that the primary concerns of the Commissioners was to save the dam and the safety of those downstream.

Several concerned citizens also spoke.  One expressed concerns that the taxpayers would be stuck with paying the bill, while another said, "The Game Commission owns it, DER owns it, the Fish Commission owns it" and then went on to question what became of all of the money taken in from hunting and fishing licenses, and the timber sale money from when the back side of the mountain was cut off

Other comments ranged from the one from a recent retiree who is concerned about the loss of the lake as a fishing spot and the possible effect on the water table, to one by a long time resident who lives directly downstream from the dam.  He explained that if the dam failed the water first comes through a 75-80' wide gorge and it  would come like a bullet or like a shot out of a cannon.

McConnellsburg realtor, Anthony D'Anna made a lengthy, and impassioned plea to officials and the audience.  He began by asking the panel how many lived in Fulton County and none did.  Then he asked where each was from and the responses were: Blair, Centre,Cumberland, and Perry counties.  

Anthony D'Anna  Asks, "What is the action Plan?"
He then asked if anyone had done a study about the economic impact on Fulton County of the loss of the Meadow Grounds Dam. D'Anna  explained how this personally affected him as a real estate agent, but took pains to emphasize that he was using his personal example to illustrate the broader problem and that the influx of residents attracted by areas such as The Meadow Grounds and Cowans Gap is beneficial to the economy of the county as a whole. He went on to say this about the decision to drain the dam “This doesn't seem, it doesn't feel like it was really thought out, this just seems like all of a sudden, hey lets go close the Meadow Grounds Lake down and it just doesn't seem from what you are saying that this is really thought out. I mean I think we all feel the same way, right from the beginning when we read this article in the Public Opinon--the Commissioners didn't know about it (D'Anna's talking is drowned in applause from audience at this point) " I'm asking you ,did you? have you thought about it? as far as it sounds like you're tempting us basically with a little bit of an action plan with starting to get a grass roots movement-I think it's already here-this is the grass roots movement, we're looking to you for what is the action plan for saving the lake.OK”

This brings us to the crux of the problem.  The lack of communication between agencies and officials on this problem has been little short of astounding.  The PFBC and DEP acted alone in studying the problem and deciding what to do and then presented local officials and the public with what is literally an accomplished fact.  It certainly has the appearance of being done in such a manner that no one would have a chance to oppose it until was too late.  At this point if it is not too late to reverse the decision, it is certainly at the eleventh hour and the clock is ticking rapidly as the lake gets lower each day.  

Migratory Waterfowl, and Other Wildlife Will Be Negatively Impacted By Loss Of Lake
Now it seems the most likely outcome will be for the dam to remain empty for an extended time, while officials develop a rehabilitation plan and try to secure funding to implement it.  Would it not have been better for all  agencies and officials involved to interface with each other and the public from the first moment that problems were first perceived with the dam and started working toward a solution.  They could have worked on securing funding in the intervening years, but now it is extremely likely that at best the lake will remain empty for several years to come. This will have a negative impact on the citizens of Fulton County, the oudoor enthusiasts from a wide surrounding area, and last but not least a thriving aquatic community, and large numbers of migratory waterfowl.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Photographs From Middle Creek

Middle Creek Lake: Panasonic GH3-Lumix 14-140 f4.0-5.8@25mm-ISO 200 1/25 sec. f 5.6
Middle Creek can provide beautiful scenic photos at sunrise and I like to be positioned to take advantage of the situation well before daylight.  The lighting conditions were correct for this on two of the three mornings that I was there this year, but the large flocks of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans were not there as in years past.  After the morning lift-off, it is time to work the rest of the area.  Usually the pothole just across the road from Middle Creek Lake is filled with different species of ducks, but that was not the case during my time there this year..  There were only a few species and most of them remained on the far side of the pothole, which is too far for good still photographs.  A few Canada Geese and Ring-necked Ducks did venture close enough for photography, but the Ring-necks were still too far away for top-notch portraits as the images had to be cropped severely to make the image large enough for visual impact.

Ring-necked Duck: Canon 5D MK III-500mm f4.0-ISO 1600 1/400 sec. f 4.5
The Panasonic GH3 worked reasonably well for still photos in this situation, but the most powerful Panasonic lens I have is the 100-300 f. 3.5--5.6, so I pressed the Canon 500mm f4.0 into service, which was mounted to the GH3 by use of the Redrock Micro MFT adapter.  This enables one to control the lens aperture, but the IS and auto-focus are not functional with the adapter so it is manual all of the way.  I missed focus on quite a few shots with this rig and some shots were blurred because of the strong wind gusts that buffeted the camera, but several usable photos were captured.  The 2X crop factor of the Panasonic MFT sensor is a plus in this situation as it gives the 500mm and equivalent focal length of 1000mm, just as using a 2X extender does, but it works better than the extender in that there is no light loss, so the lens is still an f 4.0 at maximum aperture.   I have the  1.4X II and 2X II extenders and not the latest III versions. Both degrade the image from the 500mm enough that I prefer not to use them and instead crop more severely.  The photo above is cropped an extreme amount--much more than I prefer to do, but nonetheless it  looks very good (at least to me) at internet viewing size, but I would hesitate to print it or submit it for consideration to a magazine.

The photos shown below, taken with the GH3, were also cropped a significant amount, but not nearly as much so as the one with the 5D MK III.

Ring-neck Duck: Panasonic GH3-Canon 500mm f 4.0-ISO 200 1/640 sec. f 4.5

Ring-neck Duck: Panasonic GH3-Canon 500mm f 4.0-ISO 200 1/800sec. f 4.5

Waterfowl is especially difficult to photograph on overcast days or at long range and the problem is compounded when these factors are combined, as the photo of the flock of Common Mergansers shown below demonstrates.

Common Mergansers: Panasonic GH3-Lumix 100-300 f 4.0--5.6-ISO 400 1/100sec. f5.6
I  featured wildlife photographer Dan Gomola in a post some time ago, but did not realize that he had launched a blog in conjunction with his website.  We exchanged e-mails recently about the problems inherent in photographing waterfowl and Dan directed me to his Blog.   He has written an excellent post about this subject and published several fine images.  There are numerous other posts as well, featuring subjects ranging from a discussion of HDR imaging, to stunning photos of scenery, wildlife, and other subjects.  To visit click, Here or go to Dan Gomola's Blog in the sidebar.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.