Officials: Boating season pushed back to August

·3 min read

Apr. 29—SUNBURY — The repair project at the Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam is expected to push the start of boating season back to August, according to the latest information from park officials on Thursday evening.

Shikellamy State Park Manager Andrew Leidich and Jared Fencil, assistant regional manager for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of State Parks, hosted an informational meeting at the park marina with nearly 30 people in attendance. They explained that weather, high water and cool temperatures prevented repairs to the inflatable dam from being completed last fall.

Using historical data, "This work is really going to pick up and this install is going to occur in late June or early July," he said. "In total, it will take about five weeks. Our best estimate for when all the work will be completed, and all the bags are retested, it will be mid to late August when we can finish the dam and we can bring back the lake. That is the safe estimate."

The 2,000-foot long inflatable dam creates 3,000-acre Lake Augusta in the Susquehanna River, which starts boating season 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 this year, meaning boating season is shortened for the fourth time since 2017.

Bag 6, the second one in from the Shamokin Dam side, suffered damage in 2019 from multiple high-water events. A thorough inspection revealed premature wear and tear. Leidich and Fencil said they are confident the bag was faulty from a manufacturer never used before. The underside of the bag looked to have been rubbed and slashed against the underlying concrete, creating four gashes, they said.

Last year's project was set to be a routine bag replacement project, but "We battled high river levels the entire fall," said Leidich. "Three to four days in the entire fall the river was low enough to do the work. We need at least seven, eight or nine days straight of low water to replace the bag."

Additionally, the temperatures dropped too far below 55 degrees to complete the job. The adhesive used in the installation won't work in lower temperatures, they said.

Routine spring inspection of the dam will begin next week. Temporary bag inflation will occur to inspect the rest of the bags, they said.

The construction contract for the temporary causeway and coffer dam as well as repairing the clamping system has been awarded to Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. The contractor will begin next week if conditions are right, they said.

One resident asked whether the state could take a proactive approach and remove downed trees and limbs upriver before it ever reaches the dam.

"We can't fight the Susquehanna River," said Leidich. "The amount of debris that comes down with branches, that will be neverending. We would need a larger crew doing that full time."

Ed Moyer, of the Northumberland Boat Club, said the information is valuable.

"I know you're at Mother Nature's mercy, but the element I'm not getting is any sense of urgency to save any potential part of the season," said Moyer. "That's what I'm not getting. It could be in the way you're professionally presenting it. Am I the only one that has a concern that businesses and livelihoods will be impacted by this?"

Leidich and Fencil assured Moyer that they and state officials are concerned and want the boating season to return to normal.

Peggy Reichenbach, of Sunbury Airport Campground, said she appreciated the meeting.

"Getting this information is very important," she said. "I like that they will start early if they can."