Mediator to hold meeting on Ryerson Station State Park

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A mediator attempting to negotiate a settlement in a legal dispute involving restoration of the dam at Ryerson Station State Park will hold a public meeting to hear from the community about the loss of the use of Duke Lake and proposed dam restoration plans.


Thomas A. Rutter, a private mediator employed by parties to the case, will receive oral and written comments regarding the lake and park from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Stover Campus Center and Alumni Hall at Waynesburg University.


Duke Lake was drained in July 2005 after cracks were observed in the lake’s 45-year-old concrete dam. A month later, part of the spillway was removed to prevent water from backing up in the lake bed during heavy rains.


The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources subsequently filed a claim against Consol Energy Inc. and its subsidiary, Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC, suggesting the damage was caused by the company’s Bailey Mine, which was longwall mining in the area.


The claim was filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection, which investigated and determined the damage was caused by mining conducted by the Bailey Mine. It ordered the company to restore the dam.


Consol, which denies its mining activities caused the damage, appealed DEP’s decision to the state Environmental Hearing Board.


The matter remains under litigation and is scheduled for trial in May. However, parties to the case also agreed to attempt to mediate a settlement, said attorney Stewart Cohen, special counsel for DCNR.


Cohen said he could not discuss the litigation or mediation and could only address the notice that will be published regarding the mediator’s public comment session. The notice also specifically states Rutter and parties to the case will be unable to discuss the status or details regarding the litigation or negotiations.


“The parties have agreed to mediate to see if a settlement can be reached,” Cohen said. It is the intent of all parties that Rutter listen to what people in the community have to say about the matter.


Rutter will hear comments regarding the loss of use of the lake, the proposed restoration plans and any future concerns they might have regarding the park, he said. The information may be used by Rutter to help him mediate the dispute.


It is expected all parties to the case, DCNR, DEP, Consol and the Center for Coalfield Justice, which was granted intervenor status, will attend the comment session.


DCNR has been developing plans to rebuild the dam and in May submitted a permit application for the project to DEP’s Dam Safety Division.


The proposed design calls for construction of a concrete dam, similar to the existing dam, with a more up-to-date spillway and safety measures. It will be built at the same location as the existing dam.


An application for the project filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also indicates sediment in the former lake bed will be removed as part of the project. In June, a DCNR spokeswoman said that no timetable had been established on the dam’s replacement.


According to a public notice on the comment session, those who would like to arrange a time to present comments during this public session should contact Margaret Rheinstadter, administrative assistant, Cohen, Placitella & Roth PC, by calling 888-375-7600 toll free, or by emailing MRheinstadter@cprlaw.com.


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