Dam repairs begin at Speedwell

By on January 7, 2015

Lake could be full and back in use by spring 2016

Repair work at the Speedwell Lake dam began this week. Mark your calendars for spring 2016. (Photo from the Save Speedwell Facebook page)

Repair work at the Speedwell Lake dam began this week. Mark your calendars for spring 2016. (Photo from the Save Speedwell Facebook page)

It’s been a long time since canoes lined the shores of Speedwell Lake. Mark your calendars for spring 2016.

“At this point everything is moving according to schedule,” said Milt Lauch, secretary of the Save Speedwell organization.

Repairs to the dam started this week and should take about 10 months to complete.

The popular park was taken out of commission more than two years ago following the two storm punch of Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Lee, when it was discovered the dam was breaching, deeming it unsafe to downstream properties. At the time, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission didn’t want to fund repairs, so the decision was made to drain it.

Save Speedwell, a grassroots organization, has been working to bring it back ever since.

They eventually partnered with the Lititz Sportsmen’s Association and the local chapter of Bass Masters. The sportsmen repaired the damaged pavilion on the north side of the lake a few months ago so that it will be ready for public use when the lake returns.

“We took the pavilion over in May of 1976 since the Fish Commission couldn’t keep up with the repairs any longer,” said Dick Fridinger, vice president of the Sportsmen’s Association.

The new pavilion will be rededicated in the name of Robert Buch, an avid local sportsman.

Regarding the dam repairs and refilling of the lake, Lauch said cooperation between all parties has been terrific.

“We have had fantastic cooperation between the DEP, the Fish Commission and all those involved in obtaining permits,” Lauch said.

Sediment was removed last year, and repair work was able to begin after a grant was secured to cover the cost. K.C. Construction from Ivyland was awarded a $4 million bid to make the repairs. A Tuesday morning meeting was held with Fish and Boat representatives and local emergency management personnel to discuss the limited window of opportunity to actually fill the breach.

“It has to be done during good weather conditions,” explained Rodney May, an Elizabeth Township supervisor who attended the meeting as part of the emergency management contingent. He explained that a period of rain during that critical part of the repair job could compromise the dam’s strength. Therefore, state and local officials are carefully going over every detail. He said more meetings are planned, and the public will receive updates.

Work on the dam is actually starting ahead of schedule, so the prospect of meeting the 2016 deadline is good.

“We obtained a grant through Growing Greener for $432,509, which was used to take the sediment out from a large section of the lake on the north side of Brubaker Valley Road,” explained Lauch. “Then the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania took the sediment to use on their property.”

Another grant was approved for $6.4 million dollars to help fund the repairs on the dam so the lake could be refilled and reopened for public use.

“Initially the DEP said the lake was unsafe and we had to get in line for consideration for a grant,” Lauch said, “But we had great cooperation and help from Senator Brubaker and former Rep. John Bear, who helped see the project through.”

Once the repairs are complete, nature will take it’s course, and the canoes will soon return.

“With the help of rain and Hammer Creek, we can fill the lake and begin to restock it by early 2016,” said a hopeful Lauch.

For more information on Speedwell Lake, visit savespeedwell.org.

Tom Arnold is a correspondent for the Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments at marshalfm1@comcast.net.

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