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Posted: 12/25/13

Stony Creek wraps up
$400,000 dam project

Lake had to be drained
6 feet for repairs

Observer Staff Writer
      Repairs to a 50-year-old dam in the Stony Creek Metropark was expected to wrap up last week.
       Stony Creek Lake's water level had to be lowered by more than 6 feet to make the repairs to the dam before winter froze the 500-acre lake.
       Gary Hopp, operations manager for Stony Creek, said the cause of the repairs were leaky gate valves that control water flow, and to safely access the chambers the water was dropped in September.
       "We can't have our engineers working in the structure with water pouring onto them," Hopp said.
       He said with the recent arrival of sluice gates that were fabricated and shipped from Maryland, he expected the project to be finished as of Dec. 20. The park has worked on the project since early July.
       "One thing led to another, and we did a lot of cleaning of the dam structure," he said. "The dam is a little over 50 years old now, so when we have the opportunity, it's always a good idea."
       He said the cost of the project is expected to be around $400,000, which included all maintenance and replacement of the two gate valves.
       The side-effects of the project will put a damper on some winter activities for the park. Hopp said the loss of so much water will prevent the creation of an ice rink this winter and will likely decrease ice fishing activities.
       The park normally lowers the lake by 2 to 3 feet once a year for cleaning up trash or zebra mussels as well as preventing damage to piers from the shifting ice shelf in the spring. Lake water is let out through the south dam.
       Hopp said the park will depend on Mother Nature for restoring the water level. He expects the lake to be back to normal by the summer thanks to water generated by melting snow and ice and any spring rains. The lake is around 20-25 feet deep at its lowest parts.
       He said part of the reason the lake was drawn down so early was to protect wildlife such as frogs, turtles and snakes. He said if the lake were drained after freezing it could potentially freeze the animals to death.
       "Having got to the point before it froze, we're confident they'll be fine," he said.
       The Stony Creek Nature Center took advantage of the lower levels this fall with volunteer cleanups, picking up more than 1,000 pounds of trash and fishing line from the lake's shoreline.

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