HARRISBURG, Pa. (August 30) – In advance of a long-awaited dam rehabilitation project at Somerset Lake located in Somerset Township, Somerset County, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced today that drawdown efforts have resumed to drain the lake of remaining water.
Current drawdown operations involving the periodic, gradual removal of stop logs within the dam's control tower to allow water levels to recede at a manageable pace. Weather permitting, the 253-acre lake is expected to be fully drained by mid-September.
Somerset Lake was initially lowered by approximately six feet in January 2012 to reduce pressure on the earthen dam after state dam-safety inspectors documented excessive seepage. An additional drawdown occurred in October 2017 in preparation for construction activity, which was later delayed. Following a period of relaxed fishing regulations and a large-scale fish salvage to remove or relocate most of the fish population, the lake was officially closed to public fishing and boating in April 2018. While public access to the lake pool and lake bed are restricted due to safety concerns presented by muddy conditions, the surrounding Somerset Lake Nature Park remains open.
As the project moves forward, the public is asked to keep a safe distance from all construction areas.
Governor Tom Wolf released capital budget funding in October 2016 for the repairs at Somerset Lake. Projects to rebuild dams typically take 3-5 years to complete and fluctuate depending on the number of projects underway at DEP and the Department of General Services.
The construction project was originally estimated to start in spring 2018 and take two years to complete, with the lake reopened for public use by the fall of 2020. Under the revised timeline, the lake is expected to reopen in fall 2021.
The project involves building a new spillway, raising the elevation of the top of the dam, and making repairs and improvements to the dam and the structures used to control the water level. The overall cost of construction is estimated to cost approximately $8 million.
At the completion of the project, PFBC fisheries biologists will enact a restocking plan for the lake, which previously contained a large population of largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, crappies, sunfish, perch, muskellunge, tiger muskellunge, northern pike, bowfin, gizzard shad, golden shiner and common carp.