SUNBURY — A resident on April 28 asked two state park officials in charge of Shikellamy State Park what the number one thing they would like to see happen with the inflatable Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam.
When Shikellamy State Park Manager Andrew Leidich said “making it a permanent concrete dam,” his answer received a round of applause from nearly 30 residents and business owners who came out to the park for the public meeting. They came out on that night, sitting at Picnic Pavilion 2, to hear about repairs that will shorten the boating season this year again.
State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, said the goal is to request money in the capital budget for an upgraded dam someday in the future. Designs have not yet been started, she said.
“We won’t know what it looks like, we don’t know the cost yet,” said Culver, but noted it could be $20 million or more.
The 2,000-foot long inflatable dam creates 3,000-acre Lake Augusta in the Susquehanna River. Boating season usually starts in May when the bags are inflated. The season ends in late September and the dam is lowered in early October. Repairs caused the boating season to end early in 2021 and start late in 2022, shortening the boating season for the fourth time since 2017.
Culver said the idea is to create a structure that is easier to fix and allows for faster reactions depending on weather conditions and river levels. Something “more durable with fewer interruptions,” she said.
“They are planning, they are looking forward, we are very supportive of doing that,” said Culver. “It’s moving. It won’t happen next year. We just put brand new bags in and we want to get life out of them. I’m sure it will be tricky as to when they choose to do it.”
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, using the latest technology for the potential project, said Culver.
Leidich and Jared Fencil, assistant regional manager for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks, addressed questions about a permanent structure from residents and business owners at a public meeting on April 28.
“The current modern-day philosophy is that dams are bad, dams impact waterways and ecology significantly,” said Leidich. “There’s the argument that a permanent dam would impact flooding on the western bank.”
An estimated $6.5 million fish passage being planned at the dam will include a permanent causeway along the front of the dam. Every time a bag needs to be replaced or repaired, the state must contract out to construct a temporary causeway in front of the dam to access the structure.
“A permanent causeway will make it much easier to replace a bag, and inspect the bag,” said Fencil.