Austin, PA – Today, the Wolf Administration joined local officials in marking the restoration and rededication of the George B. Stevenson Dam at Sinnemahoning State Park, Cameron County.
“One of four dams placed specifically to control flooding on the West Branch Susquehanna River, the George B. Stevenson Dam is the only one not operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Dunn told a group of more than 80 attendees gathered on the park lake’s shore. “This places an intense burden of responsibility on the shoulders of park staff and DCNR engineers. Maintenance and operation of a large dam dating back to 1955 is no small feat, but it never could never be accomplished without the expertise of those gathered here today.”
By controlling, the reservoirs in the comprehensive four-dam initiative provide significant flood prevention to the towns downstream.
Among other state officials joining the DCNR secretary were Richard D. Flinn Jr., director, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency; Marcus Brown, director, Pennsylvania Homeland Security; Roger Adams, acting director, Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands, Department of Environmental Protection; and Scott Dunkelberger, deputy secretary, Department of Community and Economic Development.
“Ensuring public safety is necessary to allow visitors and residents alike to enjoy the outdoor activities our great state has to offer,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn Jr. “PEMA was proud to work with DCNR and county and local officials to help with emergency planning and notification systems to ensure that visitors to Sinnemahoning State Park and local first responders have the tools they need to protect the public.”
Before the dam was built, the surrounding valley and downstream watershed saw several catastrophic floods, claiming life and land. Its high-hazard classification implies there is potential risk for significant property damage or loss of life downstream, should a breach occur. This classification is determined by the storage volume of the impoundment, the height of the dam, and the potential extent of personal and economic loss, if the dam were to fail.
Included in the wide-ranging, two-pronged project, costing almost $12.2 million and started in 2011, were electrical, sensor, siren and computer upgrades; toe drain and filter improvements; dredging, stream realignment, and shore line stabilization.
“DCNR’s work at Sinnemahoning and other state park impoundments across the state has not gone unnoticed,” noted Dunn. “The department recently was recognized on a national level at the Association of State Dam Safety Official’s 2017 Dam Safety Conference, and presented with the 2017 ASDSO Northeast Regional Award of Merit for ‘outstanding work done in improving the condition of its high hazard dams.’ This prestigious award is presented to individuals, companies, organizations, municipalities, or other entities working in the dam safety field that have made outstanding contributions to dam safety on a regional level.”
In addition to the safety and well-being of those living downstream from the reservoir outflow, visitors to the state park, one of many enriching the Pennsylvania Wilds, also share in the rewards of these projects. Sediment removal and dredging in the upper half of the lake increases water depth in the lake for fishing and boating. In hand with sediment dredging, stream alignment and shoreline stabilization projects were completed while the lake level was down.
“These resource management and remediation projects improved fish and wildlife habitat in the lake while decreasing potential for future sedimentation buildup,” Dunn said. “The northeast U.S. has seen more than a 70 percent increase in heavy rain events because of climate change, and this has led to a significant increase in sedimentation in many of our lakes. Returning the streams that feed these lakes to their natural contours, dredging, strengthening our dams and installing water level monitoring systems, as we’ve done here, helps to ensure that we can adapt as our climate changes.”
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