Lake Perez at Stone Valley almost ready for refill; Penn State research, dam repairs in place

If you look across the hole in the ground of what was once a man-made lake called Lake Perez, you can see a landscape filled with brush and tree stumps instead of water.

There are vacant docks and boats upon the banks that have gone unused for five years.

If you walk through its grounds, you’ll notice more than 70 wells made from plastic hollow cylinder pipes that were installed up to 3 meters deep to test for sediment and water quality under the land’s surface.

Eleven Penn State geology students are researching three sites at the 72-acre Lake Perez, which is part of the 7,000-acre Stone Valley Recreation Area and owned by Penn State. The university announced that the lake should be filled and ready for use by the spring after the dam is restored in February.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the project is costing the university at least $3 million.

The lake was fully drained in 2008 after structural deficiencies and underground seepage of the dam, which was built in the early 1960s, were found, said Paul Ruskin, spokesman for Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant.

For three years, Lake Perez has provided a platform for Penn State undergraduate students to research the environmental influence dams have on the hydrogeologic processes.

This year, Pamela Sullivan’s Techniques in Geochemistry class collected baseline data on the hydrogeochemical conditions of three streams that will once again flow into Lake Perez, after dam restoration.

Over the next couple of years, classes will be able to utilize this data to examine the hydrologic controls of dam restoration on both the surrounding and downstream ecosystem, Sullivan said.

“Right now we’re walking on what was once a lake,” Sullivan said. “By next year students will be conducting research in boats.”

This research is part of a larger project called the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory.

The Layne Geological Construction Co. is completing the project under management of the Office of Physical Plant, Ruskin added.

Repairs will include a grout curtain, an impermeable membrane to seal the dam and a cutoff trench to guide the flow of water downstream, Ruskin said.

Dam restoration began in March.

The Lake Perez refill plan has been submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Refilling will be slow and carefully controlled with constant monitoring of performance,” Ruskin said.

Research associate Andrew Neal said the lake will be about 30 feet at its deepest.

The plan by the spring is for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to stock the lake, said Kris Kuhn, District 7 area fisheries manager.

He said if there is enough water, the Fish and Boat Commission could stock the lake with a variety of fish including bass, pike and forage fish. By 2015, trout would be added, Kuhn said.

“The idea is to get the predator fish in there first and then gradually add more fish to help reinvent the lake,” Kuhn said.

The fish will be produced from state hatcheries, Kuhn added.