State Allocates Money for Colyer Lake Repairs
In 1964, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission (now called the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission) acquired lands, designed and built an earthen dam on Sinking Creek in Potter Township to create a fishing and boating area which was named Colyer Lake.
Construction of the dam was completed in 1966, encompassing a drainage area of 8.4 square miles with a maximum depth of 38 feet.
In 2002, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), deemed Colyer Lake unsafe by updated design storm requirements. The spillway could pass less than the 24 percent of the design storm (100 percent is required).
The lake was drawn down 10 feet in 2003. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, (PFBC) then observed undermining of the auxiliary spillway. A bypass channel was used to divert some of the water flow from Sinking Creek into the lake. In 2011, the bypass channel was reinforced when the PFBC noticed additional undermining of the auxiliary spillway. The bypass channel would now divert 100 percent of Sinking Creek into the lake to minimize any additional undermining of the auxiliary spillway.
An annual dam inspection was performed in 2012. The annual Dam Inspection Report found that Colyer Lake was unsafe by the current required standards of safety. PFBC engineers conferred with PADEP Dam Safety Engineers and a mandatory water release was ordered. The lake was partially drained to a level approximately 17 feet below the "full" level in the spring of 2013.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (a self-funded state agency), which owns and maintains the lake, lacked the funds to make the necessary repairs, which would cost about $6 million.
In 2013, Save Colyer Lake Inc., a non-profit corporation was formed, headed by Colyer resident and Centre County judge Tom Kistler. Its goal was to raise funds to help pay for the dam's repairs and to act as leverage for state funding.
In November of 2013, a transportation bill (HB 1060) was signed, allocating state funds for numerous road and infrastructure projects including the repairing of "high hazard unsafe dams." This bill provides all of the funding needed to repair Colyer Lake.
Since that time the PFBC has been busy preparing for the repair work to begin. According to the current best estimate, permitting and design work may be completed by September of 2014, and the project will be put out for bids at that time.
The lake will remain at its current level until it needs to be emptied for the construction work. As such, the lake should be usable for fishing and boating through the summer of 2014.
According to Kistler, president of Save Colyer Lake Inc., the organization has raised just over $140,000 to assist in the project costs. The State has asked Save Colyer Lake, Inc. to participate in an agreement that commits $100,000 to construction costs.
The remaining funds, and any additional funds raised in the future, will be used to improve Colyer Lake through new amenities. Save Colyer Lake Inc. will work with the PFBC to plan the appropriate additions. Kistler estimates that this may include a greatly enhanced trail around the lake, boardwalks in marshy areas, bridges over inlet streams, picnic pavilion facilities, and perhaps more.
The PFBC is expecting to hold another public meeting in the spring, to announce their progress.