- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

ETTERS, Pa. (AP) - Over a course of seven months in 2013, Scotty Roberge, 75, said she taught herself to type so she could write an emergency action plan that, in part, will help preserve Silver Lake, one of York County’s oldest lakes.

Roberge, who has owned a rustic cottage on the lake since 1988, is the vice president of the Silver Lake Homeowners Association, which oversees 65 lake front properties.

The manmade lake, which was built by John Herman in the late 1700s to power his flour mill, sits about one mile from the center of Lewisberry borough off of Lewisberry Road in Fairview Township. The lake, mostly quiet and calm except for the occasional jumping fish and landing duck, is only 4 feet deep. The depth is difficult to judge at first glance because of brown silt that sits on the bottom. And there is one dam on the east side, while a spillway controls the release of water.

The lake’s association formed in 1948 and for years helped maintain the lake and its feeder stream Bennett Run, which drains into the lake on the west and south sides, Roberge said.

But in September 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection reclassified the lake as high hazard. The classification means that if the dam fails, it has the potential to endanger lives, said Lisa Kasianowitz, information specialist for the DEP. There are three homes right below the dam, she added, one of which would be flooded if the dam were to fail.

The high hazard classification “does not in any way describe the condition or performance of the dam,” but rather notifies people of a potential danger, Kasianowitz said in an email.

The recent change in dam stipulations at Silver Lake is not uncommon by statewide DEP standards, Kasianowitz said. The DEP has a dam safety program, which monitors 768 high hazard dams across the state.

The state department has emergency action plans (EAP) for 97 percent of dams that have the potential to endanger lives, which, Kasionowitz said, is well above the national average of 69.

The EAP defines responsibilities of emergency crews and other officials responding to various concerns like heavy rain or structural problems, Kasionowitz said.

Kasionowitz said that besides drafting the emergency action plan, the association will also have to be compliant with two inspections per year; once by the owner’s engineer and once by a DEP engineer. The association hired an engineer who reported that there was minor seepage from the dam, she said.

“The main goal for the program, and DEP, is to protect the health and safety of people and property living downstream from those dams,” Kasianowitz said.

Roberge, a summer resident on the lake where she enjoys stand-up paddleboarding, said that she is willing to comply with the new regulations even though they are forcing her to raise money from the community.

“The only way to survive the DEP is to meet their requirements,” Roberge said Thursday sitting at the table in her kitchen, complete with an original, working 1929 stove. “We’ve lived like a little lake for 229 years without being told what to do.”

To raise the money, the association held a vote during its June 7 meeting, asking homeowners to vote yes or no to raise annual dues by $400.

The vote passed 40 to 6.

Brad Ellenberger, president of the homeowner’s association, said the new laws from the DEP were a lot to handle at first.

“We were overwhelmed with everything we had to do,” Ellenberger said crediting Roberge’s diligent work to draft the plan. “There’s nothing we are doing wrong, (DEP) just changed the laws.”

If the association does not follow the new regulations, Roberge said, the DEP will breach the dam and drain the lake themselves. But the cost of that work lies on the shoulders’ of the homeowners.

There was some debate for homeowners to agree to burden the costs associated with the new regulations.

“We’re willing to do whatever (DEP) asks. It’s just hard to get the community behind us,” Roberge said.

“I didn’t expect that so many people would support us,” she said. “Our option is to maintain the lake, or let them tear it down and pay them to tear it down, which doesn’t sound very fair to me.”

History of the lake

The lake got its name because of the blue color of clay, which lined its edges, made the lake appear silver, according to Scotty Roberge.

The lake is drawn down once every three years so residents can fix and repair their sea walls, which are barriers in front of homes blocking the passage of water.

The private lake has three public access points making it a popular destination for fishing in the summer and ice skating in the winter. No motorboats are allowed.

In 1944, Sonja Henie, the 10-time world champion Norwegian figure skater, skated on the lake to practice her halftime shows for a nearby hockey team.





Information from: York Daily Record, https://www.ydr.com



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