Overseers in Cambria and Somerset Counties are preparing for the Stonycreek River's first full season of whitewater recreation this year.
The Cambria-Somerset Authority expects healthy water levels in the Quemahoning Reservoir this spring, thanks to a relatively warm winter. CSA Chairman Jim Greco said that could mean more whitewater discharges from the reservoir into the Stonycreek.
"It's been a very mild winter, snow-wise and temperature-wise, so the ground really isn't frozen, so we're getting good absorption down into the ground, which is really what you need," said Greco. "You really need to get groundwater up, and groundwater's very high, so we'll be fine."
The expectation is for groundwater to run into local waterways, which then flow into the Quemahoning. Greco said the lack of a significant snowmelt this year isn't a factor, because the whitewater season will start much later, as April draws to a close.
Before the first discharge of whitewater from the Quemahoning Reservoir, the CSA must repair the intake tower. Greco said that's a mechanism that helps regulate the flow of water.
"It's a 100-year-old structure," said Greco. "It's a long tower: ninety feet long, with gates at various levels, the bottom gate being the gate that goes to the whitewater valve. We've had some problems with that we're going to have to repair. It's going to cost us probably about $110,000 to do those repairs."
Greco said the CSA hopes to have those repairs finished by the end of March.
Whitewater will be released 10-20 times from April to October this year, depending on the amount of rainfall over that timespan. The four-hour recreation sessions will be open to rafts and kayaks, on a stretch of the Stonycreek ranging from the town of Holsopple to Johnstown.