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Environment & Energy

Somerset County Agrees to Match Donations to Save Lake

Commissioners of Somerset County have agreed to use drilling revenue to match any public donations to save Lake Somerset.

The lake has one of 12 “high hazard dams” in the state. The county is trying to save the dam to save the lake. The 253 acre lake’s water level has already been lowered by 6 feet to take pressure off the dam.

The county is also trying to make the land around the lake into a community park. It just has to wait for the Fish and Boat Commission to approve the plans, which Commissioner John Vatavuk thinks is very likely.

“What we’ve been told by the state is that they want to see a commitment from the local people that this is a viable project ... The point of the whole thing is just to show the groundswell grassroots support,” said Vatavuk.

The commissioners will match donations made up to $50,000 by using funds from a portion of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling fees which is set aside strictly for conservation and recreation. This is an effort to raise a total of $100,000 to model Save Colyer Lake (http://www.savecolyerlake.org/), which raised the same amount and received state funding to pay for the remainder of the dam repairs.

The dam repairs are estimated to be $7.4-8.5 million.

“There is a lot of community support for it, and a lot of the people were holding back on donating … because they weren’t sure exactly where the county was headed, but we think with this $50,000 dollars that the county has put forward will show them there’s a commitment from  the county,” said Vatavuk.

The lake is great for fishing with walleye, largemouth bass, catfish and pike, and it also one of the peak places for migratory birds between the north and the south according to Vatavuk. The lake is also one of the only public lakes in Somerset with boat access.