Rice Township Still Waiting For Ice Lakes Dam Repair To Begin

Work is now set to begin on the Ice Lakes dam repair on March 1, two months after supervisors expected it to begin when they hired contractor A. R. Popple in December.

At the Board of Supervisors meeitng on February 6, Township engineer Andy Pasonick said the delay shouldn’t cause any run-ins with the state Fish and Boat Commission, which has decreed that repairs must be completed before the mating season of the endangered Northern Cricket Frog. Both the Fish and Boat Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection have signed off on a permit for “dewatering” –partially draining the lake as the first step in starting the repairs –anytime before April 30, Pasonick said.

No one knows whether the tiny Northern Cricket Frog actually lives in the Ice Lakes area, but a study to determine its presence would be cost-prohibitive. The township has decided to assume the species does live there and schedule the repairs so that the Fish and Boat Commission won’t fear for the frogs.

But the timing of the repairs does continue to inch closer to summer, the frogs’ mating season. As it stands, A. R. Popple held a pre-construction meeting last week and set a start date of March 1. Pasonick said the projected end date is May 7 but noted the work could be dependent on the weather.

The cost of the repairs also continues to creep upward. Supervisors voted to pay Pasonick an extra $5,000 requested in a change order. Hours spent interacting with the Fish and Boat Commission and preparing new drawings of the dam contributed to the extra costs.

Once the water level of the lake is drawn down, residents should be careful, Supervisor Rick Arnold warned. Dangerous ice chunks could remain behind, he said.

Resident Karl Kaminski complained that the “township taking over that lake is one of the worst things that ever happened,” stating that someone is likely to get hurt there and sue the township.

Supervisor Bob Pipech countered that if the state had retained control of the lake, it would have breached the dam and wiped out the lake, leaving only a stream instead of the popular recreation lake used for fishing, boating and skating.

After the meeting, Arnold called the lake an “asset” to the township, noting the adjacent park and picnic pavilion are so popular people need to reserve it in the summertime.

“We know that with having water comes responsibility,” he said, adding the township will do all it can to keep people safe.

In other business, supervisors:Heard from Emergency

Management Officer Bryan Brown, who said the state rejected the township’s emergency action plan. For it to be approved, it must be updated to show where the water would go if the Ice Lakes dam failed, he said. Pasonick said this shouldn’t be too complicated because the township already has data on the dam due to the upcoming repair project.

Heard from Roadmaster Pipech that the township employees had all been patching roads nonstop in recent weeks after halting work on the building demolition at the site of the township’s former fire hall and picnic grounds. “Horrendous” road conditions necessitated that the patching take precedence, he said.

“We’ll pave what roads we can” this summer, he said, “ but money really is tight now in this township.”

Announced the township is no longer a member of the Mountaintop Area Council of Governments (COG). After a cost analysis, supervisors determined it would be cheaper to keep a dumpster for leaves