Nonprofit organization joins fight to save Colyer Lake

A grassroots campaign to preserve Colyer Lake now has a partner in its battle.

Save Colyer Lake announced Friday that it will team with the State College-based Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation to raise money for repairs to the lake’s dam and spillway.

In March, the state Fish and Boat Commission declared that the aging dam had become “highly hazardous.” Lacking restoration funds, the agency began draining the Potter Township lake — a popular recreational spot which was lowered 10 feet in 2002 — to protect homes downstream from being flooded.

The decision galvanized lakeside residents and local boaters and fishermen, leading to the formation of the Save Colyer Lake group. After a drawdown of about 7 feet, shrinking the lake to roughly 30 acres, the state temporarily stopped when it decided the level was safe enough to accommodate rainfall short of a once-in-25-years storm.

Standing near the sparkling lake Friday, Save Colyer Lake leaders said the partnership with the foundation, an official nonprofit, gives the group a vehicle for accepting tax-deductible checks.

“Our focus is to try to raise public awareness and public support,” said Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler, the group’s president.

Already, Save Colyer Lake has received about $110,000 in verbal pledges, said Kistler, one of the lake homeowners.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $6.8 million cost of renovating the earthen dam, which Kistler deems basically sound, and the eroded spillway. To meet state standards, the dam will require new concrete reinforcement along its entire length.

But Save Colyer Lake only needs to raise enough to show state officials that the campaign has broad support, said Scott Sheeder, the group’s secretary and an environmental and water resources engineer.

The group’s hope then would be that the state, with 11 dams currently in jeopardy to fix, would give Colyer Lake greater priority once funds become available, Sheeder said.

“I think it will demonstrate to everybody who’s in the power to make those decisions that people care about the lake,” he said.

On Sept. 15, Save Colyer Lake will hold “The Dam Fundraiser for Colyer Lake.” From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., activities will include cycling, hiking and workshops for kayaking and canoeing. Kistler said organizers hope to have 200 boats on the lake in time for a low-level aerial photo.

The $20 tickets, or $40 for families, will cover refreshments and entertainment.

“This was one of my favorite places to come out and visit in the summer, ride my bike around and fish,” said Sheeder, who grew up in State College. “I think it’s a resource worth saving.”

At present, with no further draining for the time being, needed state funds are tied up in a stalled transportation bill. When it finally passes, Kistler said, Colyer Lake will be in a good position to receive aid quickly.

Despite the impasse, the state has agreed to do the necessary repairs, drafting a renovation design and securing permits — about $650,000 worth of work already done.

“So we’re getting close,” Kistler said. “We just need the money.”