|HARRISBURG, Pa. – A popular Cumberland County lake, which was drained in 2008 in order to rebuild the spillway at the facility’s dam, is ready to be refilled and is expected to be reopened to the public in time for the 2013 regional opening day of trout, according to state officials from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Opossum Lake – a 59-acre lake near Carlisle – was drained in late 2008 by the PFBC after routine inspections discovered that the dam’s spillway had cracks and was leaking. The PFBC manages the lake on behalf of the Commonwealth. Last week, DEP said the PFBC could begin refilling the lake, which will take approximately five to seven months to complete, depending on precipitation.
“This is great news for all the anglers, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts who use the lake,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “It takes a lot of time, money and cooperation to rebuild a dam. We couldn’t have done this without the help of Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), the Friends of Opossum Lake Conservancy (FOLC), local and county officials and DEP.”
“Our plan now is to begin refilling the lake this week, with the goal of being able to stock the lake with adult trout in time for the regional opening day of trout, which is Saturday, March 30,” Arway added.
DEP’s Division of Dam Safety oversees all dams in the state and is responsible for making sure they meet current safety standards.
“DEP and PFBC worked as a team to rehabilitate Opossum dam and protect the safety of the citizens living around the dam as well as the environment,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “This team effort, along with strong local support, is what will bring this dam back to life and again provide local recreational opportunities.”
The PFBC rebuilt the dam’s spillway over a two-year period from May 2010 to February 2012 using a combination of local and state funds, including $1.5 million secured by Sen. Vance from the state’s capital budget.
“This project is a perfect example of private citizens and state and local government working together to improve the Commonwealth to ensure that recreational opportunities continue for decades to come,” Sen. Vance said.
Deficiencies in the lake’s spillway were first detected in September 2005, which resulted in the lake being lowered by 14 feet. The PFBC monitored the lake and performed tests on the spillway until 2008, when it determined that the lake would have to be fully drained and the spillway completely rebuilt.
From that 2005 date, the Friends of Opossum Lake worked closely with the PFBC, Lower Frankford Township and Cumberland County to secure funding for the project. The township contributed $100,000 and Cumberland County provided $609,000 from its allocation of Growing Greener funds. The PFBC contributed $775,000. Private citizens also donated funds. The total project cost approximately $3.38 million.
“The success of our group has been primarily its ability to form partnerships and coalitions and to increase the community's awareness of the lake and the surrounding property as a natural resource for our community,” said FOLC President Ed Franco. “Many of our most committed members don't fish, but have come to love the lake and the surrounding property as a place to simply enjoy the outdoors.”
The process of refilling a lake involves continuous monitoring and takes approximately five to seven months to complete, depending on precipitation. The earthen dam needs time to properly and safely absorb the water. PFBC engineers will raise the water level two feet per week and will inspect and monitor the dam until the lake is completely filled.
Since its beginning, the FOLC has raised approximately $100,000 locally from individuals, businesses, and small foundations. All of the money has been used to help restore the lake and provide facilities, such as a picnic pavilion and restrooms, a handicapped accessible fishing pier, new docking facilities, and a handicap accessible trail.
For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.
Fish and Boat Commission – Eric Levis, Press Secretary
DEP – Lisa Kasianowitz, South-central Community Relations Coordinator
Sen. Pat Vance – Tracy Polovick
Friends of Opossum Lake Conservancy – Ed Franco