WAYNE COUNTY — An area dam and bridge have both been deemed unsafe and action is now being taken.
Lower Woods Pond
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has announced it will begin to draw down the Lower Woods Pond after an evaluation found the lake's earthen dam revealed the structure does not meet current dam safety standards set by the state.
Lower Woods Pond is located in Lebanon Township in Wayne County.
The chief engineer of PFBC, Jack Rokavec, said the failure of the dam is "not imminent, but the dam's earthen embankment and its spillway do not meet current engineering or regulatory standards."
He said there was "observed seepage paths" at the dam and that may be "indicative of internal erosion which could represent a serious dam safety condition."
Because of that, the commission is drawing down the reservoir to "protect the lives and property of the 25 residents living downstream."
He said the lake will be drained at a rate of about a half of a foot per day. Once the 91-acre lake is drawn down, a natural lake of approximately 50 acres is expected to remain. This is because the Lower Woods is a natural lake and the current dam acts to increase the size of the lake.
Although having a dam in jeopardy is not good news, there could be some positives for for area anglers.
In preparation of the lower water level, the PFBC has temporarily lifted all seasons, sizes and creel limits on the lake and is encouraging anglers to responsibly take advantage of this temporary regulation change.
Dave Kaneski, Waterways and Conservation Officer in this region, said they are "trying to salvage as many fish as we can."
In some cases, he said the state's fishery unit will come to a location and utilize nets and other means to save the fish.
However, with the cold weather, "that is tougher," said Kaneski.
Because of that, he said angling regulations have been changed.
"Anything you catch, it's legal," he said.
"We want anglers to fish the water and harvest and make good use out of as many fish as they can," said Dave Milko, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries and Management.
Kaneski said currently, there is "skim ice" on the lake but that does make it more difficult for anglers, especially given the fact the boat ramp has been been closed.
"There is no open water right now," said Kaneski.
Another major problem: "You can't control mother nature," said Kaneski.
He said once the lake does freeze over and become solid, then anglers will be able to ice fish.
Page 2 of 3 - Asked if it's possible the regulation changes could be extended, Keneski said, "Anything is possible."
He said the weather is the main factor. If there is a lot of moisture over the winter, he said it could take longer to draw down the lake.
Right now, the temporary regulation change is through March 31, 2013.
Kaneski said Lower Woods Pond is a "popular spot" for area anglers, noting it's only about 15 minutes north of Honesdale. He said all warm and cool water species are in the lake with the exception of trout.
There is good fishing for walleye, bass, muskie and many other species, he said.
The dam is owned by the state of Pennsylvania and managed by PFBC. Construction costs to repair the problem are estimated at $2 million.
According to the PFBC, the dam at Lower Woods Pond is one of 11 managed by the commission which are classified by the state Department of Environmental Protection as a high-hazard and unsafe.
Nine of the 11 dams have no funding for repairs. Kaneski said this dam is one of those which do not have funds in place.
"At a minimum, it will be years," he said. "Hopefully, the funding will come."
In the meantime, area residents will have to make adjustments and area anglers will likely be taking advantage of the lifting of regulations.
Kaneski called the lake "picturesque." There is a foot bridge to gain access to the area.
If you would like to find out more about the dam revitalization projects, visit fishandboat.com/dams.
Skinners Falls Bridge
In another infrastructure matter, officials at PennDOT announced Friday that Skinners Falls Bridge spanning Pennsylvania and New York has been closed.
The closure comes on the heels of a detailed inspection of the bridge which was completed just a couple of weeks ago.
The bridge is located near Milanville on State Route 1002 and connects to Sullivan County, New York, over the Delaware River.
Michael S. Taluto, safety press officer for PennDOT, said the closure was the result of an "analytical inspection."
Because of the data which came out of that inspection, PennDOT officials "felt it needed to be closed," he said.
Though he didn't have details of what it will take to fix the bridge, Taluto said "there will have to be repairs."
There were repairs done on the bridge earlier this year, however, it apparently wasn't enough to fix the aging, one-lane structure.
At this time, there is "no time frame" as to when the repairs might be made or when the bridge might be opened.
Page 3 of 3 - A marked detour route has been established, he said.
You can visit www.neparoads.com for more information.