A crowd filled the Bald Eagle Area High School auditorium Wednesday night for a public meeting regarding a proposed feasibility study to determine alternative ways to release water at Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir, and also to help enhance downstream ecosystems on Bald Eagle Creek.
Many attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and present concerns to representatives from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which are working in partnership to conduct the study. Much of the concerns included flood control; impacts to recreation, health and property; and how to better use the waterway to generate power.
The goal, according to public affairs specialist Sarah Gross, was to get community feedback and help clear up misconceptions.
A $800,000 study — funded by the two entities — was proposed about a year ago and is expected to be completed by the spring.
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Dan Bierly, of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers – Baltimore District, said if the study features negative results, then further proposal options will cease for the time being. But if it’s a “positive study,” Bierly said that information will be redistributed to the community, tweaked with recommendations and approved by headquarters so an updated operations manual can be written.
What we’re looking at is changing the way the reservoir releases water in drought conditions and to see if we can better balance protecting downstream ecosystem as well as meet the needs of recreation
Dan Bierly, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers - Baltimore District
“What we’re looking at is changing the way the reservoir releases water in drought conditions and to see if we can better balance protecting downstream ecosystem, as well as meet the needs of recreation,” Bierly said.
Currently, lake depth is at a maximum of 630 feet from mid-May to mid-November. In November, it’s lowed to 625 feet, and during the winter is dropped again to 610 feet.
Bierly said the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers believes the lake can properly operate between 628 and 632 feet in the summer months. However, according to a document from the group, recreation constraints include 629 feet at the marina, 628 feet for beach and swimming, and 627 feet at boat launches.
“We already do these kind of releases,” he said. “This is just looking at changing the way we do it. Can we make adjustments and should we make adjustments?”
Howard Borough Councilman Irv Hoy answered a few questions regarding the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir feasibility study:
Question: How long has the borough been working with the Army Corp of Engineers regarding Sayers Dam and Reservoir?
Answer: We have been working with the Corps of Engineers since 1972.
Q: What was your reaction to the study?
A: I was totally taken back and surprised that there would be such a study at this time and that it would be approved to do such a study when there are so much other areas of need of financial support.
Q: From what I understand, if the proposals roll out, it could impact tourism and recreation. hat else will it affect?
A: Impacts, as far as Howard borough is concerned, are health issues and dust (silt) from when they lower the water level when there is no covering, and a chemical plant that closed upstream — Nease Chemical in State College that drains down to the dam and settles, and the dust carries down through the town. Not only are there health problems, but also damages property.
Q: How do you know these are harmful chemicals?
A: Residuals were tested (by the Army Corps of Engineers).
Q: What kind of damage are you seeing?
A: It’s like a sandstorm that creates pitting to houses and property. I happen to live on the west side of town facing the (water), and my chain-link fence was all pitted and needed resurfacing. My house, swimming pool was just loaded with dirt after one season.