Two deteriorating dams at man-made fishing lakes in southwestern Pennsylvania will be repaired beginning next year as part of a $25 million statewide investment announced by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has dubbed 10 dams, including those at Lake Somerset and Donegal Lake, “high-hazard” and “unsafe.” The designations mean that if the dams were to fail during heavy rain, property would be damaged and people could potentially die in the ensuing flood.
In a statement, the governor said fixing the decades-old structures will also allow neighboring communities to continue benefiting from the tourism generated by the fishing spots.
“Fixing dams in desperate need of repair is an important safety measure to sustain these tourist attractions for all Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said.
The waters of the 253-acre Lake Somerset have already been drawn down by about 6 feet because of structural problems with its dam, according to Fish and Boat Commission spokesman Rick Levis.
Lake Somerset and Westmoreland County's 90-acre Donegal Lake, which is regularly stocked with trout, have populations of catfish, muskellunge and other species.
He said anglers will be authorized to "fish out" the lakes and catch as much as they want before the agency begins relocating fish populations in 2017.
"We try to capture them and relocate them to other facilities" before draining the lakes, Levis said.
From there, it will take about two years to fix the two dams, at a combined cost of about $12 million. Fish populations won't recover fully until a few years afterward, Levis said.
Another $13 million or so will be put toward repairing dams at three other lakes, including Kyle Lake in Jefferson County, Meadow Grounds Lake in Fulton County and Minsi Lake in Northampton County.
The dams at Glade Run Lake in Butler County and Virgin Run Lake in Fayette County are also in the midst of the planning process for future repairs.