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.


Greg said...

Sorry to here about the loss of Meadow Grounds Lake. It sounds like a conservation nightmare! This kind of insanity will go on, unless all conservationists and true lover's of nature continue the good fight. Don't give up!!

Greg Douglass

PS-Well done on the early spring photos of elk. Did you do any post processing on the 5D MK3 and 500mm shots?

Willard said...


I shoot in RAW with a standard picture profile for stills and neutral for video. I always post process to a certain extent.

I use Photoshop CS6 and open the photo in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)from bridge. I used to do minimal processing in ACR, and do most manipulation in regular photoshop including sharpening, but now I do most processing in ACR, including sharpening and only do a bit of fine tuning in regular Photoshop.

I often boost the blacks a bit, make sure the overall brightness is correct and then use either the shadows, etc. sliders to correct the image. In many cases I use the local adjustments brush to bring dark areas up or bright areas down if needed.