Bohn on Friday April 14, 2017 4:42 pm
April 12, 2017
HELLO friends of Canonsburg Lake!
It has been awhile since we have been able to update our website, so I offer this letter to bring you all up-to-date on Lake work.
First of all, who are we? We are a group of citizens dedicated to bringing attention to, and improving Canonsburg Lake. I started the Save the Lake Committee in April of 2000, when a neighbor and I walked around the lake on opening day to get signatures on a petition that would be given to the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC). From that day forward, we collected 3000 signatures! I prepared a binder that had all of the original petitions, pictures of the current state of the lake, letters of support from both townships, the county commissioners, our state senator and representative, and testimonies of fishermen just like you. Then Senator Stout arranged a meeting for me to meet with the PFBC Executive Director (Pete Colangelo) and executive staff in Harrisburg who could speak to work on the lake. I gave each of them a binder, gave my spiel pleading for help, and was ecstatic when they all agreed with me! But, they said, they do not have any money to dredge lakes. The majority of money they receive from fishing licenses and boat registrations go towards the fisheries. They told me they have to rely on regular citizens like myself to take the lead in getting things done.
I will not go into the detail of what went next, but suffice it to say, I did not give up. There was a wonderful gentleman from DCNR who guided me in the right directions and contacts. In 2004, I established the Canonsburg Lake Recreation & Improvement Committee. It’s a long name, I know, but it speaks to exactly what our goals are. To enhance the boating, fishing, trail hikes, and use of the lake by all, for the beauty of it and calming effect it presents. To that end, we strive to solve the problems plaguing the lake that lessens the opportunity to do those things, by improving the current status that impedes fishing, boating, etc. Our committee has stayed steady at 8 individuals – all having memories and fondness for the lake. We wanted to do our best to correct these issues.
So, what needed to be done and at what cost? It was estimated in 2005 that it would cost $20 million to dredge the entire lake to bring it to its original contours and depth. Of course that is not feasible. And as an impediment to achieving our goals, the PFBC told us we “could not put a shovel in that lake and take out any sediment until the dam is fixed and brought up to DEP standards.” Those standards were to anchor the dam into the bedrock so it would not slide from the pressure of the water and sediment.
We worked to bring attention to this by continuing to talk to our legislative representatives and asking for help. At that time, a PA Growing Greener grant had become available. The Harrisburg folks were able to obtain the funds needed to do the work on the dam. That was completed in 2012 at a cost close to $3 million. Afterwards I was told by many people involved in this project that if our committee did
- Letter to the Public
- Page 2
- April 12, 2017
not do the work we did to bring this situation to the public and others, the funds may not have been given to the Lake and the dam would be breached (disassembling the dam).
In essence folks, this saved the lake. If there is no dam to hold back the water, there is no lake. It would return to its original form as Little Chartiers Creek. But, we succeeded!
Now we could work on the dredging, right? Wrong. The PFBC, Peters and North Strabane townships, and our county commissioners told us our next task was to raise funds to construct a weir further upstream to help catch sediment and debris. And it made sense. If we dredged the lake and another Hurricane Ivan or other came along, it would fill the lake again with the sediment that the ferocious water would bring downstream. We understood that, but wanted the work on the weir and the lake dredging to work simultaneously, one project was downstream, and another upstream. Was that possible? YES!!! We ONLY needed to raise at least $2 million.
Well, low and behold, our little committee, with the help of you wonderful people and some grants, were able to raise $1.8 Million. That was enough to put it out for bid. The scope of work would involve creating an access road on the North Strabane side for the PFBC and, most importantly, the contractor to mobilize all of the equipment they would need. They would also construct the weir (made with huge boulders and rock that permit water to flow through), and a road on the Peters side would be created to allow maintenance employees (townships, PFBC) to drive down and take out the debris and sediment that accumulated, by crossing the weir, driving down this new road, and utilizing the equipment they needed to accomplish the task. The weir rocks could not be higher than the normal pool of water height, but it would be high enough for the equipment to be able to cross the weir on the rocks, and do the task.
Now it was time to confirm the actual area the contractors would work, set in grids. I noticed there were no work grids chosen for the dredging on the lake. When I inquired, I was told by our engineering firm that “there is no money left to do any dredging.” He explained that the requirement of the DEP to deposit the sediment ONLY at Waste Management escalated the costs. We were not told that fact, nor were we told there was no money for dredging until the week before the contractor was ready to begin construction. WOW!!! What a blow! Here, our committee who had worked 17 years for this day, and thought we would have a beautifully restored lake by winter, now had to begin again raising money. The engineering firm estimated it would cost $2 million to do what we want, but naturally the more money we have to work with, the more sediment can be removed.
For the next dredging phase, it is imperative we find alternate sites for sediment disposal. That proved to be the costliest part of the project and the reason, they said, there was no money left for dredging. If any of you can assist us with this, please contact me, and we can give you the specifics about the sediment. I petitioned Senator Bartollotta to appeal to Waste Management to do this pro bona, or at least at an extremely low rate. Her group was not successful, but we will go back to her again! She is always willing to listen to us. She feels the Lake is an asset to Washington County, and that they should do everything they can to preserve and save it.
- Letter to the Public
- April 12, 2017
- Page 3
It is important to state that the Committee has done some other lake enhancements while waiting for the funds and the permits to arrive. We’ve been busy! We have to date:
- Created a Master Site Plan with DCNR funding to indicate what the public would like to see as recreational aspects at the Lake
- Partnered with the Peters Township Girl Scouts to install benches around the lake. All of the surrounding communities purchased a bench (Little Lake Theater, Lakeside South HOA, Waters Edge COA, Cranmoor, and the Save the Lake Committee
- Partnered with an Eagle Scout to build a walkway bridge on the North Strabane side that crosses a wet stream-fed gulley
- Partnered with an Eagle Scout to improve the trail from the main parking lot to the dam. He corrected tripping hazards, widened the path, and cut down some vegetation
- Asked the PFBC if they could post boundary posts on the North Strabane side so that people will know they are not trespassing when walking the trail
- Asked the PFBC if they would post a sign for the public encouraging them to walk along the trail. A lot of people thought that the homeowner’s properties went all the way down to the lake and that they would be trespassing on private property
- We were able to get a contract between the PFBC and North Strabane Township, permitting the CLRIC committee to improve the lake without the requirement of sending a request to the PFBC for everything we wanted to do, and then having to wait until we received an answer back. The PFBC could create that contract with the township, but not with us, as we do not carry the appropriate insurance The township does and we work with them and inform the PFBC what has been done.
- With North Strabane’s help, we were able to eradicate the Japanese knotweed that was spreading down to the lake’s edge, denying fishermen spots to fish from and people an area to picnic and relax. NST brought in equipment to take out all of the fallen trees and debris that was in this area. We then hired someone to spray approved weed killer for three years to help keep it down. After this was in control, we were able to request that the PFBC mow this restored area as they do by the main parking lot.
- We were able to provide a dumpster on the NST side for fishermen and picnickers
- We had the respect of the community to have three huge fundraising events at Bruschetta’s, (now Mad Mex), Juniper Grill, and Atria’s where they donated the finger food and wine that were available.
- Recruited Cub Scout Troops and their families to do a lake clean up on both sides of the lake
- Partnered with Peter’s Township High School’s and Canon-McMillan’s environmental classes to meet at the lake. The PFBC brings canoes and teaches the students boat safety and how to ride and paddle a canoe. While half of them are boating the other half is doing a clean-up with the bags and gloves the PFBC have provided. On May 2, 2017, we will have our third annual event at 3:30PM. We encourage the public to bring their canoes and kayaks so that they can collect
- trash along the shorelines of the Lake.
- Letter to the Public
- April 12, 2017
- Page 4
- Participated in countless meetings and events to inform them of our progress
- Sold T-shirts, hats, visors, bags, and blankets embroidered beautifully with a great blue heron, and a rainbow trout. All are embroidered with Save Canonsburg Lake so that people would ask, What’s wrong with Canonsburg Lake?
- Convened meetings with the PFBC and our county commissioners, representatives, state senators to advise them on our progress and describe what still needs to be done.
- Arranged for several press releases to inform the public and ask for support
- On Saturday April 15, 2017, and Saturday April 22, 2017, we are holding a huge fundraiser to again bring awareness to the state of the lake, and to ask the public to purchase new T-shirts we had printed with three actual Canonsburg Lake Eagle pictures.
- And finally, thanked the Good Lord for bringing those beautiful American Bald Eagles to nest on the lake shore, in a tree that is available for everyone to see and observe their majesty. The Game Commission told me that he thinks they are very young eagles because of the location they chose. We think those eagles are very smart!
There are probably many more things that we have done that has slipped my mind at the moment. I must recognize that none of this could have happened without the diligent support of the Washington County Conservation District, The Washington County Redevelopment Authority, North Strabane and Peters township and the PA Fish & Boat Commission. And our little 8 member committee who have stuck with me from the beginning, believing we could do it! Thank you.
Founder & Chair
Canonsburg Lake Recreation & Improvement Committee