Although the valve to release whitewater from Quemahoning Reservoir is now fully operational, state regulators have raised a new issue about the Somerset County recreational facility: how quickly the flow of water from the valve should be stopped.
Cambria Somerset Authority (CSA) owns and operates the Quemahoning Reservoir, and hopes to increase whitewater recreation to the nearby Stonycreek River by occasionally augmenting its flow with reservoir water.
CSA Chairman Jim Greco says his group's plan was to open the valve over the course of an hour, release about 70 million gallons of water in a four-hour stretch, then close the valve over one more hour.
But the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission said the valve should not be closed so quickly, because the rapid drop in water flow could strand some insects on the river banks when the Stonycreek recedes, disturbing the river ecosystem.
Greco said that conclusion was reached on a walkthrough of the riverside during a test run of the valve. He said there's no hard evidence for the assumption that the organisims would be stranded.
"I'm a biologist by training. I have a PhD in ecology. I want to see scientific proof that this is a problem before we consider agreeing to releasing that much water, and have them reducing the number of releases and increasing the cost per release," said Greco.
The CSA chief said that the Fish and Boat Commission suggested the valve be closed over a 12-hour time period, which he says will increase the cost of operation and increase the water loss from the Quemahoning Reservoir by 30 million gallons.
Rather than risking a shortage of water for residential and business customers, Greco said the Authority would be forced to reduce the number of whitewater releases from the reservoir.
The CSA plans to release whitewater 14 times next year, during weekend days from April to October. Greco said each whitewater period would last about four hours, open to kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts from the town of Holsopple to Johnstown.