Progress continues with East Branch project

JONES TWP. - Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, provided an update on the ongoing East Branch Safety Project during a stakeholders' meeting held Wednesday morning at the lake.Numerous personnel from local and state agencies, as well as several property owners, attended the meeting in an effort to stay abreast of the project. "We have gotten full support. People are very understanding as to what the issues are and why we're taking a cautious, safe approach," said Mike Rattay, project manager from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We really haven't had any negative feedback."The East Branch Safety Project is in response to a confirmed dam safety issue related to potential internal erosion similar to the serious internal erosion episode in 1957, which required lowering the lake level to make repairs. In 2008, a risk-informed screening of the dam concluded that the potential for seepage-related failure still exists. This led to the Corps to implement 24-hour staffing at the dam and lower the lake level.In October 2010, the Corps approved a long-term risk reduction plan consisting of constructing a concrete cutoff wall within the existing embankment and foundation. The $280 million, multi-year East Branch Dam Safety Project has an anticipated completion date of 2017.Rattay stated construction on the dam's access road continues and is slated to be completed in October. TAB Construction of Ohio, which was awarded the bid in September 2011 in the amount of $2,902,280, began working on the road in May. The final phase includes a two-week time period for paving. The project includes widening of the road starting at the boat launch area and finishing at the intersection with the state route. In February a bid was awarded to J.R. Orr and Son Inc. of Altoona for the construction of a new office building in the amount of $594, 692. It is scheduled to be completed in August 2013.Rattay explained once the project is in full swing, the upper picnic/overview area and campground will be closed to the public in order to be utilized as support areas for crews."With everything that is going to be going on with construction and truck traffic, we do not think it's in the best interest of public safety to keep our campground open during construction," Rattay said.The campground will close in 2014 and re-open once the project is complete in 2017.