WILCOX, PA. – After seven years of construction on the East Branch Clarion River Lake dam and more than a decade of lowered water levels, the reservoir and dam will reopen in late May with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house event.

The dam repairs concerned a “bus-sized” hole in the dam through which the lake has seeped water since the 1950s.

“The water level will be its highest in decades,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Butler, deputy commander of the US Army’s Engineering Corps in Pittsburgh. “The federal government is investing in this community and the benefits of that investment will be seen in the years to come.”

The corps lowered the lake’s water level by 20 feet in 2008 when it discovered the dam needed repair. If the dam collapsed, it would have devastated more than 6,200 residents in downstream towns like Johnsonburg and Ridgway in less than two hours.

The dam was first built in 1952, but in 1957 a void the size of a school bus was discovered in the earthen dam. Some repairs took place in the years that followed, but recent construction projects in East Branch began in 2014.

“It will be a relief to the people who live in the area (to finally reopen),” said Elaine Lisk, the district chief of staff who oversees plans for the upcoming ceremony and open day.

Lisk and other members of the Pittsburgh District team recently visited the East Branch to prepare for the ceremony.

“This was a massive construction … It may seem like a simple concept with just water and earth and concrete, but there is a lot of science and engineering going on behind the scenes so everyone works together to ensure a safe and controlled flood. Risk coverage, ”said Lisk.

As a result of the construction, the park’s campsites were closed, the boating season was shortened and other boating activities were restricted. Fishing on the lake remained open, but the ramp near the dam was closed for much of the project. Elk State Park is another local attraction and home to local herds of elk that visitors bring in during their bugle season and some hunting.

“It will be a very popular website after we reopen,” said Evan Skornick, operations manager for the north of the Pittsburgh District. “People are very excited that the water level is rising again and that a full recovery is possible … and that they are camping at this campsite.”

The Pittsburgh District will host a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on May 27th. The open day will include information stations about the repairs and historical information about the reservoir.

Repairs, which began in 2014, required tremendous coordination between engineers, safety experts, construction professionals and administrators, as well as daily monitoring to ensure that water levels, temperatures and cleanliness were consistently in good condition.

The cities closest to the dam – Kane, Ridgeway and Wilcox – are expected to benefit most from the reopening of the lake and parks, a Corps resource manager said.

“They have become really beautiful little towns over the years, and this will help the area even more as new breweries, restaurants and shops attract more people,” said Autumn Rodden, resource manager and supervisor at East Branch Lake.

Rodden has worked for the district for 13 years but decided to move to the area five years ago because it has the best water quality in the area, she said.

“Hopefully the church can enjoy this lake for a long time to come… We put our hearts and souls into action. We really care about this place in the church. I look forward to welcoming people back, ”said Rodden.

Recording date: 02/04/2021
Release Date: 02/04/2021 3:44 PM
Story ID: 392977
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