A site to see

Work on dredging spillway progressing

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The new spillway at Chapman State Park is under construction.

The major portions of the work at Chapman State Park that are not already complete are under way.

According to Park Manager Tyson Martin, “three to four companies are on site at any given point performing a variety of trades from concrete, technical engineering inspections, sediment removal, site maintenance, etc. Some are working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.”

The dredging of the lake is about 90 percent complete.

Not a lot of dredging was needed at the end of the lake at the dam. Most of the sediment being removed accumulated at the southeast end of the lake where the creek enters.

“When it is safe to refill the lake, it will average about six to eight inches deeper,” Martin said.

That is for the whole lake. “That doesn’t sound like much, but six inches was not removed from the whole lake bed,” he said. “About two-thirds of the lake — the end closest to the dam — has accumulated very little sediment.”

At the other end, nearest State Game Land 29, more than four feet of sediment was removed in some places, Martin said. “All these numbers don’t mean a whole lot to most of us. What the lake will ‘feel’ like is significantly more enjoyable.”

“If you’ve paddled a canoe or kayak in this upper third of the lake in recent years, you’ve no doubt touched the bottom with your paddle,” he said. “That will happen much less now.”

“If you’ve ever lost an anchor due to the mud in this area — and we know there were plenty of you — that will happen much less in the future,” Martin said.

In addition to the benefits to paddlers, there will be benefits to fish, and therefore fishermen.

“I can best describe the sediment as pudding,” Martin said. “Without water in the lake, the areas with a lot of sediment look smooth and free of debris. When underwater, the sediment holds too many nutrients.”

“Did you notice the abundance of aquatic plants on that end of the lake?” he said. “Without the nooks and crannies that rocks and debris provide, the smooth bottom is not very welcoming for fish or macroinvertebrates.”

He said improving the paddling, fishing, habitat, and general water quality were the main reasons for dredging the lake.

New concrete for the spillway is about half installed.

The new spillway is longer than the old one. “Instead of just five steps and a ‘deck,’ there is an additional set of seven steps and another deck before forming the stream,” Martin said. “This helps to slow the water coming over the spillway before it becomes the West Branch Tionesta Creek, thus reducing erosion downstream.”

“The right side of the spillway (as seen from the water) is nearly done,” Martin said. “Contractors anticipate beginning their work on the left side within a couple weeks.”

“The right side (as seen from the water) of the dam embankment will be ready for roller compacted concrete (RCC) within a week,” he said.

When the on-site concrete plant is operational, contractors will be able to make 1,000 cubic feet per day.

“That translates to covering about 60 feet of embankment width each day,” Martin said. “With agreeable weather conditions, they can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short time.”

Contractors hope to be able to finish installing the concrete on both sides of the embankment and spillway by the end of the year, Martin said.

However, because of rain in the spring and summer, the contractors have been given an additional 60 days to complete the work — to Jan. 25.

If the weather does not cooperate with that new deadline, contractors may have to return in the spring for “finishing touches,” Martin said.

Visitors are welcome.

“The project is definitely a sight to see,” Martin said. “The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset daily and the public are welcome to view the construction activities.”

“If you come now, you will notice dirt… a lot of dirt… everywhere,” Martin said. “When the project nears completion, you will notice the dam embankment is much bigger — not taller.”

“Parking is available in three designated parking lots nearest the beach area for sightseers, bird watchers, hikers, bikers, and hunters,” he said.

The campground and pavilions three and four are open.

The upper loop of the campground closes on Sept. 30, as do reservations for the pavilions. Visitors may use pavilions 2, 3, 4, and 5 after that on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lower loop of the campground will remain open until Dec. 9.

All hiking trails, except a portion of the lower snowmobile trail — which does not exist right now — are open. The trail will be rebuilt when sediment removal is complete and the contractor’s ‘haul roads’ are removed, Martin said.

Hunting areas, with the exception of the lake, will be open.

The road to the right around the lake as visitors enter is closed due to degradation from the high volume of construction vehicles. “We anticipate reopening the road this fall as soon as the roadway can at least be temporarily repaired,” Martin said.

Visitors are not allowed on the lake bed, whether or not there is water in the lake.