Today, The Meadville Tribune concludes its review of the top Crawford County news stories of 2012. It’s likely that all of the stories were familiar to Tribune readers, and more than 100 of you took part in helping to limit the list of headlines to just 15, then choose their order of importance to the community.
We started with the story rated number 15 on Friday, and complete the list today with number one, the story voted as most important of the year.
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Tamarack Lake went through a rough year of substantial drainage and damage, but Crawford County commissioners see a light at the end of the tunnel after state approval for a multimillion-dollar grant designed to fund repairs to the damaged, leaking dam at the north end of the basin.
In its current condition, the 562-acre manmade reservoir in south-central Crawford County, about three miles southeast of Meadville, was labeled a “high hazard” to flood control last year. Since then, it’s water has been drawn down from about 15 feet deep to just a few feet or less, much to the dismay of those who live near the lake or enjoy its outdoor recreation.
“There is indeed hope,” said Jack Lynch, Crawford County commissioner, who hopes the project will not take as long as similar statewide projects, including Cumberland County’s Opossum Lake, roughly in its third year of rehabilitation.
“Since (Tamarack Lake) is a flood device, this will hopefully drive the timeline,” Lynch added.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will be receiving $11.9 million to repair seepage around the outlet conduit and remediate the spillway capacity at the north dam, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
“This is good news for the community; we’re very happy,” said Eric Levis, press secretary for the PFBC, which is working on timetables for the designs, contracts, permits and approvals necessary to begin construction. “But it will take some time and we want to move the project along as quickly as possible.”
The PFBC submitted a grant request to the Commonwealth Financing Authority for approval in mid-September. Gathering funds has presented a challenge for the commission, according to Levis.
“It takes a lot of time and millions of dollars to rebuild dams and rehabilitate drained lakes,” he said, noting that while the PFBC is an independent state agency, it receives no funding from the state general fund.
Instead, the PFBC relies on federal grants and revenue from fishing license sales and boat registrations to finance the construction and planning stages of Tamarack Lake and like projects, the completion of which could take four years or more.
“The issue of these dams is a statewide issue,” said Levis. “Tamarack is one of the many dams that need to be rebuilt.”
Around the same time the PFBC submitted its grant request, the borough of Cochranton, five miles from the south end of the reservoir, joined the restoration effort, asking for support from county commissioners. In a letter presented before the commissioners, Cochranton’s Borough Council cited the need for Tamarack Lake in terms of fire protection, flood control, recreation and tourism.
While commissioners took no formal action on the letter, the board agreed the lake should be repaired.
The PFBC initially discovered seepage around the dam in November 2011, causing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to declare it unsafe. By September 2012, the dam was put on a list of dams deemed hazards and drained in the following months.
Built in the early 1960s as a flood control project mainly for the nearby Meadville community, Tamarack’s 4-mile-long, half-mile-wide reservoir covers acreage in West Mead, East Mead and East Fairfield townships.
Failure of the dam could affect more than 1,500 residents as well as 300 businesses and a school, according to Republican state Rep. Brad Roae’s office.
“My office and I have been working together with (Republican state) Sen. Bob Robbins, township supervisors county commissioners, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and concerned constituents to find a way to fix the Tamarack dam,” said Roae, whose Sixth District includes much of central and eastern Crawford County.
He added that the approved grant is just the first step in a series necessary to complete the multi-year project of fixing the dam and refilling the lake.
TOP STORIES OF 2012
15 - Naming rights to Second District School
14 - Voter ID confusion reported
13 - Courthouse security revamped
12 - Work begins on county’s Talon site
11 - Texas Twins drug runners caught
10 - Meadville’s financial woes
9 - Meadville to get stormwater fee
8 - School budgets need
7 - ‘Year of homicides’ in county
6 - Conneaut Lake area arsons
5 - Jobless rate shows no improvement
4 - Northstar the horse burned, helped
3 - Gas drilling comes to county
2 - Korean soldier’s remains come home
1 - Tamarack Lake goes ‘dry’