Peters Lake

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Kayakers enjoy a sunny day on Peters Lake.

Estimates have skyrocketed for bringing the dam at Peters Lake up to state Department of Environmental Protection standards with regard to handling excessive precipitation.

The cost of solving erosion problems with the dam’s spillway could be in the vicinity of $5 million, according to a recently completed alternatives analysis, a figure that contrasts sharply with an April estimate of between $200,000 and $400,000.

That month, Peters Township Council awarded a $61,645 professional services contract to Rizzo International Inc. to determine an appropriate design to solve the issue. The company submitted its analysis Aug. 11.

According to the document, Department Environmental Protection officials said the selected design should be able to accommodate a certain degree of flooding that results from “probably maximum precipitation events” as determined by the state using a newly developed calculation tool.

For Peters Lake, the applicable calculation is 17.5 inches depth for two hours of precipitation, an amount that David Ball, council chairman, called “an absolutely ludicrous number.”

“I understand designing to a safe level with a built-in margin for error,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. “If that ever occurred, this township would be underwater.”

In its analysis, Rizzo provides three alternatives for erosion protection of the spillway and makes the recommendation “that Peters Township develop a preliminary budget of $5 million until the erodibility issue is resolved.”

The document also contains sources of potential grants, including funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania DEP designated the Peters Lake structure officially known as Canonsburg Dam No. 2 to be unsafe, and the state agency also has deemed the existing spillway to be inadequate.

The dam was built 89 years ago by Citizens Water Co. of Washington to form a reservoir and was part of Pennsylvania-American Water Co.’s 1990s sale of property to Peters Township, which subsequently established Peters Lake Park at the site.

“One of the great assets that Peters Township has, in terms of a recreational facility, is that lake,” township manager Paul Lauer said Monday. “But there is a limit to what makes sense.”

Council member Frank Arcuri asked about the possibility of removing the water.

“I’m not advocating that we drain it, but I think that we should at least know the numbers,” he said.

Lauer said that could be an option.

“But don’t think that draining the lake is for free,” he told council. “I don’t know what that permitting would be, and I think there might be some real expense to that.”

He advised a course of action regarding the spillway.

“I think we have to find out what it is that DEP is going to require of us,” he said. “And then at that point, I think we either appeal that decision or we need to look for a significant source of funding that isn’t the township.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!