$2.5 million Lake Placida upgrades commence this year

TEMP ORARY November 12, 2011 0

Students returning to Elizabethtown College next fall may not recognize part of the campus’ new appearance. In the summer of 2012, the College grounds will undergo some serious changes, highlighted by the construction at Lake Placida.

A new dam will replace the current one. It is scheduled to be built in June, and is expected to be completed when students arrive on campus in the fall.

The project is going to be quite costly at $2.5 million. Etown is paying $1 million, and the state of Pennsylvania will pay the remaining $1.5 million. In this process, 11 trees surrounding the lake will have to be cut down. Many students may be questioning the need for a new dam when we already have one that is working properly. However, there are many good reasons for such construction.

“Lake Placida’s dam has been classified by the Department of Environmental Protection as a high-hazard dam,” stated Joe Metro, director of Facilities Management and Construction. The state of Pennsylvania is mandating that this dam be more stable in order to prevent the lake from flooding, as it did this past September. There is no way around this issue but to abide by the state laws and to construct a new dam.

Etown applied for a grant to fund this project two years ago, but the funds were denied. However, the grant materialized quickly after the previous flood the campus experienced because “our drainage system must be capable of withstanding a hundred years storm,” Metro said.

Dave Madary, the professional engineer and designer of the dam, states, “A hundred years storm is a storm that produces between 8 to 9 inches of rain within a 24-hour period. They get their name because there is a one in a hundred chance of [a storm] occurring in a given year,” Madary said. Due to the fact that the present dam is not capable of withstanding such a storm, as witnessed during Etown’s September flooding, there is significant need for a new, updated dam.

The new dam will be about 127 feet long, and the construction is expected to take a few months, but should not greatly inconvenience students and faculty who are on campus during the summer.

“Walking to Brown Lot or the Brown buildings will be the only main inconvenience someone should see during the construction,” Metro said. The bridge that is currently near Lake Placida will be taken down and reconstructed completely to fit with the much larger dam during this process.

One of the stipulations in this project is that 11 trees surrounding the lake will need to be cut down in order to build this dam. The reasoning for this is simple: if a tree were to fall down during a storm, water could fill the void where the roots had been and, as a result, it would erode the soil. A breech, or a hole in the dam, would occur as a result. If the dam were to crack, flooding would inevitably ensue, and a situation similar to the September scenario would take place.

“I am not very happy about cutting the 11 trees down, but I understand the importance of the project and its purpose of protecting those downstream of the lake, as well as the students and faculty on campus,” Metro stated.

He later explained that there will be two trees planted for every one that is cut down. Facilities Management is doing its part to keep the campus beautiful as well as safe.

In order to protect the campus and its students, the project must be completed in a timely fashion. Facilities Management is doing its part to prepare for the project. Although some members of the College community may have concerns about the expenditure, the current status of the Lake Placida dam mandates these drastic changes.

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