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Lack of funding holding up work on Meadow Grounds Lake dam

Locals vow to fight for lakes return

June 23, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Dayton Tweedy is a member of the steering committee for the Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake organization. The group's goal is to find a way to repair the dam and restore Meadow Grounds Lake in McConnellsburg, Pa.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

MCCONNELLSBURG, Pa. — Heartbreaking.

That was the word Dayton Tweedy used as he surveyed what remained of Meadow Grounds Lake after the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, or PFBC, drained the 204-acre lake just southwest of McConnellsburg.

“We have lost our lake. It means a lot to the people of the area,” said Tweedy, interim secretary of the community group Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake.

The fish and boat commission announced in February that it would drain the lake because of deficiencies in its dam.

The drawdown began March 4.

During an inspection in December, the PFBC and the state Department of Environmental Protection found that existing seepage in the dam had worsened, according to the PFBC.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Eric Levis, press secretary for the PFBC. “The dam needs to be replaced. It’s a threat to the businesses and the people who live downstream to it.”

“We were forced to drain this,” Levis said. “It’s not something we want to do. We are in a fishing and boating business. The absolute last thing we want to do would be to hurt our business, and we have every intention of fixing this lake.”

Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake is committed to ensuring its restoration.

Tweedy is devastated that the lake known by nature lovers for fishing and kayaking has been rendered lifeless.

But, he said he doesn’t want to dwell on what has happened.

“The Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake are focusing on the solution. We are going to get it back. We are going to do whatever it takes to make it happen,” Tweedy said.

The group will hold its first public meeting to formally organize and elect officers Monday at 6 p.m. in the community room of Fulton County Library in McConnellsburg.

A lack of funding is holding up the restoration work.

It has one of nine high-hazard, unsafe dams in the state that need to be repaired for a total cost of approximately $44 million, Levis said.

The problem is the fish and boat commission’s annual budget is about $50 million, he said.

“We don’t get any state money from the general fund,” he said. “We’re not like the Department of Education or the Department of Environmental Protection. We don’t get money every year from taxpayers as part of the general budget discussions. Our budget is funded by fishing license sales and boating registration fees, and some federal funding.”

That’s why Levis applauds groups like Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake.

“The local people are absolutely critical to stay engaged with the county and local leaders, and to stay engaged with their state legislators. We need the state legislators to help free up money from the state budget to help fix these,” he said.

The lake isn’t in the 33rd District represented by Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, but he has a definite opinion about it.

 “While it’s not my district, it is important to me as chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee and it’s also important to me as a sportsman,” he said.

There’s no doubt the dam needs to be fixed, but the lake needs to be restored, Alloway said.

“I’m committed to helping these folks get this done,” Alloway said.

“It needs fixed. I know it looks awful now. Let’s just go and find the money and get it fixed,” he said.

Alloway said the transportation bill that passed the state Senate 45-5 has money to address high-hazard dams like the one at Meadow Grounds Lake.

If the state House of Representatives passes the bill, it could provide funding needed for repairs, he said.

Levis said repair costs are estimated at $2.5 million to $4 million.

“The difference is because we still need to identify exactly what needs to be done to fix it,” Levis said. “Part of the process is to lower the waters so we can hire a firm to come in and do some testing and analysis to determine the issues are within that dam and then to provide estimates to fix it.”

Once funding is secured, Levis said, it will take four to five years to complete the repairs.

“I think everybody wants to see it restored as soon as possible,” said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Hollidaysburg, whose district includes the lake. “It’s been a priority for me.”

Eichelberger said there are at least two major funding streams from the state that could help the lake — the transportation bill and a capital budget bill.

Eichelberger said Alloway has been an ally of restoring the lake in the Senate, while Rep. Dick Hess, R-Bedford/Fulton/Huntingdon, whose district includes the lake, has been an advocate in the House.

Calls to Hess’ office were not returned by press time.

If you go:

Friends of Meadow Grounds Lake public meeting
Monday, 6 p.m.
Fulton County Library community room, 227 N. First St., McConnellsburg, Pa.

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