An 11-week process to refill a popular Centre County fishing and boating destination is underway. The dam at Colyer Lake, located just off Route 322 in Potter Township, was deemed structurally deficient in 2012 and the lake was emptied less than 12 months later.
Now, thanks to passionate local residents, successful fundraising and dedicated construction crews, refurbishment of the dam and aquatic habitats is complete and water levels are on the rise.
According to Save Colyer Lake, Inc. President Tom Kistler, last month the Department of Environment Protection provided verbal approval of the plan to start refilling the lake. Kistler says the process should be complete by the beginning of March, but the formation of ice could halt refilling the lake temporarily if fish habitat structures may be damaged.
A long-time local resident and outdoorsman, Kistler founded Save Colyer Lake, Inc. when he learned of mounting issues at the treasured community resource. The organization quickly grew and demonstrated the necessary public support for the Fish and Boat Commission to prioritize repairs on the dam at Colyer Lake.
The Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation provided administrative backing and fundraising support to Save Colyer Lake, Inc. The foundation established a tax deductible outlet for supporters to contribute funding to help recreate the lake, which is the only type of its size within close proximity to State College and Penn State University.
Approximately 1.2 million people fish in Pennsylvania and PFBC Executive Director John Arway says the 77-acre lake is a great spot for people in the Centre Region to get outdoors.
Plans are still in development for the addition of a foot-path around the entire lake for better access to all portions of the lake. Kistler also says planning is underway to install handicap access for safe kayak and canoe launching.
“The primary reasons that people don’t fish and boat are because they don’t have the time to do it and they don’t have a place to go,” Arway said. “We will be providing the perfect location for people to fish and boat, go birdwatching or just take a walk in a peaceful place.”
But, it certainly wasn’t easy to reach this point. Arway notes that the repair and reconstruction of dams to 2015 DEP safety standards is extremely expensive for the PFBC.
The agency is solely funded by fishing license and boat registration fees along with the federal sport fish restoration funds.
However, in November 2013, former Gov. Tom Corbett approved a transportation bill providing funds leveraged with other resources to help the PFBC rebuild high-hazard dams. These funds were crucial to complete the Colyer Lake project, which had a $4.8 million price tag, well below estimated cost.
“The hard work and dedication of the Save Colyer Lake organization was vital to secure funding for this project,” said Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation Executive Director Vern Ross. “We are extremely pleased to see the restoration of a valuable community resource and habitat for aquatic species.”
To aid habitat development for fish and other aquatic life, crews used 300 tons of pulverized limestone to cover the lake’s floor. This lime will help buffer the low pH of the water coming into Colyer Lake.
Additionally, structures were added along the lake bed, such as piles of rock excavated during the reconstruction of Route 322 and clusters of posts and logs. These structures will be utilized by juvenile fish to avoid predation and serve as feeding grounds for all sizes of fish.
The submerged wood and rock will become covered in algae, which is then colonized and consumed by macroinvertebrates. The macroinvertebrates may be as small as a midge larvae or as large as a crayfish. These species are an ideal food source for many of the gamefish in the lake.
The liming project perhaps best demonstrates the commitment of local business leaders to sustain the lake’s future as a valuable community resource. Graymont of Pleasant Gap donated the lime, while trucks from State College-based Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. were used to haul the bounty.
Additionally, the lime was spread by Scott’s Landscaping at a significantly discounted price, which will be covered by the Centre Hall Farm Store.
The Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation was established to provide permanent private support for wildlife habitat enhancement, scientific wildlife research, youth education, land preservation and the establishment of a Wildlife Research and Education Center in State College.
The Foundation has also partnered with Restore Hereford Manor Lake and Save Somerset Lake to help complete a similar projects elsewhere across the Commonwealth.For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation website.