DCNR still waiting for permit for new dam at Ryerson

April 18, 2014
The Duke Lake dam at Ryerson Station State Park

A year after an agreement was announced to rebuild the dam at Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is still waiting for a permit to move ahead with the project.

DCNR earlier applied for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Dam Safety Division to build a new dam to replace the 45-year-old structure damaged more than eight years ago because of ground movement at the site.

Though it continues to wait for the permit, DCNR believes it resolved one issue regarding the rebuilding of the dam, DCNR spokeswoman Christina Novak said in an email response. The issue involved finding a place to take the silt that had built up in the lake bed during the years.

“Finding a place for the silt was an issue, but we think we have it resolved,” Novak said. Plans for the silt are now being finalized. The department “should be ready with an announcement later this summer,” she said.

DCNR earlier estimated it would have to remove five feet of sediment or about 500,000 cubic feet of soil from the lake bed.

When DCNR can begin work on the new dam will all depend on DEP permit approval, Novak said. Receiving a permit for the dam is the next step in the process of restoring the lake, she said. “We have to wait for that before moving forward.”

When announcing an agreement had been reached to rebuild the dam last April, then DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan said the department hoped to expedite the process and have the lake restored by 2017.

The restoration of the lake came about as a result of an agreement between DCNR and Consol Energy Inc. to end litigation regarding the cause of the dam’s failure.

Expanding cracks in the concrete dam forced DCNR in July 2005 to drain the lake and remove part of the dam’s breastwork. DCNR filed a claim against Consol, alleging the damage was caused by subsidence from Consol’s Bailey Mine, which was longwall mining near the park. Consol disputed that claim.

To end what could have been a lengthy litigation process, DCNR and Consol came to a settlement, under which Consol, admitting no liability, agreed to pay $36 million to replace the dam and give DCNR eight parcels of land totaling 506 acres it owns adjacent to the park.

In return, Consol would be permitted to drill for natural gas beneath the park using horizontal drilling from well pads outside park boundaries and mine coal it owns in the eastern area of the park, away from the lake site.

Consol also agreed to pay DCNR an 18 percent royalty for gas production from wells beneath the park after it realized $13.7 million from the wells.

Novak said the company paid the $36 million to DCNR shortly after the agreement was announced and the money is earmarked for the dam project. Consol also will soon turn over two of the eight properties it agreed to transfer to DCNR as part of the agreement to expand the park, she said.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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