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Angler researches lowering lakes from the bottom to cool waters and help trout survive

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Angler researches lowering lakes from the bottom to cool waters and help trout survive


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An avid angler believes allowing more water to be released from the bottom of lakes will give coldwater fish like trout a better chance to survive the hot summer months.

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“I would notice that Laurel Hill Creek would super heat in the really warm months of summer,” said John MacDonald, 66, of Rockwood, Somerset County. 

“The trout would suffer horribly, many would die and the ones that didn’t, took refuge downstream and left the area.”

In the heat of the summer, MacDonald would wear snorkeling gear and swim down the creek looking for fish.

“I noticed they would hide in the deeper pools,” he said, “and I would find a cold water spring down there, that they were all huddled up against.”

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Ongoing research

About five years ago, he approached Camp Soles, a nearby children’s camp, about opening their lake’s bottom drain pipe to release some of the colder water to see how that would impact the temperature of the water flowing downstream. The camp’s 18-acre lake flows into Lost Run and then into Laurel Hill Creek.

“We had to make sure that at all times that water flowed over the top for the health of the lake,” he said. “We had to find a blending point which let water over the top, but enough cold water off the bottom to bring (the temperature) down,” he said.

Let’s go fishing: A look at what you need to know to fish for trout this spring across Pennsylvania

He started measuring the temperature of the water at several locations, including in Lost Run before it reached the lake, in the lake itself and then several spots down stream. 

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During the heat of the summer, he said water coming into the lake would be below 70 degrees. The water flowing over the spillway would oftentimes be 80 degrees or more and the water below where the spillway and bottom pipe blend in Lost Run would be back down to below 70.

“We are able to get to the same temperature below the dam as it was coming into the lake,” he said “We were actually able to get to that same point, as though the dam wasn’t there,” he said.

Susan Fletcher, president of the Friends of Camp Soles board of directors, has been observing MacDonald’s efforts.

“It’s not only that the fish are more vigorous and survive better, but there’s something about what they feed on that has improved,” she said.

Fletcher said MacDonald is a friend of the camp and they appreciate his efforts.

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“He’s clearly interested in the environment and when you have a summer camp, that’s what you want the kids to do, is to appreciate the natural world,” she said.

She said the dam was named Lake Tris for a descendant of the camp’s founders. She said there are online references to the waterway that have it also spelled as Lake Triss. “It’s hard to get that changed,” she said.

“One of the most popular things in recent years has been fishing,” she said about the campers enjoying the lake to catch catfish, bass and a variety of panfish.

“We love that John has taken an interest and is keeping (the lake) healthy. Because one of my favorite sayings is, when you tug at one thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world.”

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This year, MacDonald is continuing his research with recording temperatures and studying the ratio of water coming over the spillway with the water being released from the bottom of the lake. He also wants to measure water volume, too.

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“Once I establish the ratio of what is needed, other lakes with a spillway and bottom pipe, can experiment with how far to open the pipe each year,” he said about making it a simple process for people to mimic or at least try. 

He said he’s not changing the amount of water being released, but blending the two sources of water discharge.

With the help of Camp Soles, he said the goal is to, “Someday find a very simple solution for these types of lakes to bring the water temperature down below 70, and protect our cold water heritage.”

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MacDonald isn’t officially trained to study waterways, but said he’s an avid sportsman who wants to protect the fishery. He’s hoping his research can be used by state agencies and private lake owners “for the betterment of our cold-water heritage.” 

State agency response

Lakes in Pennsylvania are managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Lauren Camarda, regional communications manager for the DEP, said, “A cold water, low-level discharge is not always required or beneficial, but many dams have been retrofitted with cold water releases over the years. While there could be benefits from discharging from the bottom, it could have the unintended consequence of releasing anoxic water (water with low levels of dissolved oxygen that fish need), sediment that can pollute the water downstream, or entrapping or impinging fish in the lake.”

If the lake has to retrofit its pipes on the bottom of a lake it can be cost prohibitive based on what is needed.

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“Simply ‘cracking open’ the low-level valve is generally not a viable solution as high velocity flow could be detrimental to the valve and debris may lodge in the valve preventing it from being able to shut,” she said through an email. “If a dam owner wants to change normal operation of the pool level, a permit is required from DEP. DEP’s division of dam safety consults with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regarding situations where a cold-water release requirement may be warranted. Ultimately, this idea may have merit in certain situations but must be approached on a case specific-basis and in concert with DEP review to ensure that it is in fact beneficial for aquatic life downstream. DEP encourages dam owners that are interested in this to contact DEP to determine if it is something that could work for them.”

Mike Parker, communications director for the Fish and Boat Commission agreed that colder water may help trout survive the summer months, but referred questions about lowering lakes to achieve that to the DEP.

 Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on this website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook @whipkeyoutdoors, and Instagram at whipkeyoutdoors.





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Pennsylvania

Wind advisory affecting part of Pennsylvania until Saturday evening

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Wind advisory affecting part of Pennsylvania until Saturday evening


On Friday at 2:02 p.m. the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory in effect until Saturday at 6 p.m. for Northern Clinton, Northern Centre, Southern Centre and Southern Clinton as well as Potter, Huntingdon, Fulton and Franklin counties.

“West winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph,” says the weather service. “The combination of strong winds and saturated ground will bring an increased risk of downed trees and power outages.”

“Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result,” comments the weather service. “Use extra caution when driving, especially if operating a high profile vehicle. Secure outdoor objects.”

Advance Local Weather Alerts is a service provided by United Robots, which uses machine learning to compile the latest data from the National Weather Service.

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Pennsylvania

Biden to kick off Pennsylvania swing after tax day

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Biden to kick off Pennsylvania swing after tax day


President Biden will kick off a tour across Pennsylvania with a major address in his hometown of Scranton on Tuesday, the day after tax day.

The tour of Pennsylvania, which is a critical swing state that Biden won in 2020, will also include stops in the Pittsburgh area and Philadelphia. Biden is set to be in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

“Do you think the tax code should work for rich people or for the middle class?” Biden will ask voters during his address on Tuesday in Scranton, according to the campaign.

Biden is set to outline the difference between his tax agenda, which he argues is structured to build the middle class from the bottom up and middle out, to former President Trump’s policies, which he argues only helps the wealthy.

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The Biden campaign also plans events in other battleground states next week, where other officials and surrogates will compare the president’s economic agenda with Trump’s.

Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020 with 50 percent of the votes, flipping it after Trump won in 2016. A Franklin & Marshall College poll earlier this week found Biden leading Trump by 10 points in the state, garnering support from 48 percent of voters surveyed, compared to Trump’s 38 percent.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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Pennsylvania

Montgomery County announces strongest paid parental leave policy in Pennsylvania

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Montgomery County announces strongest paid parental leave policy in Pennsylvania


County Commissioner and Chairperson Jamila Winder said her own experience as the parent of a young child informed the policy. She went through a C-section when she birthed her son Max, now 3, and had a complicated physical recovery. She was working in the private sector at the time and had to figure out with her husband how to take paid time off so they could spend time with their newborn child while continuing with their careers.

“It’s an adjustment for families, whether you’re the birthing parent, or the one that will be greeting your newborn when your new child comes home,” she said. “So we wanted to give equal credit and time to both parents at the time of delivery.”

Winder said the commissioners hope the private sector takes note.

“When you think about the lifeblood of your organization, which is your employees, these are the types of things that we need to do to show commitment and support of working families,” Winder said.

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Attracting top talent to work with the county is one of the goals of the policy, Makhija said.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we’re all together on this, is it’s good policy for us as an employer to compete with the benefits that people see and other spaces and let people know that public service is an option, whereas they might have thought that they could only get these kinds of benefits in the private sector or elsewhere,” he said.

Tom DiBello is the county’s lone Republican commissioner. He supported the measure and said he hopes other local governments and the state government will replicate Montgomery County’s move.

“Hopefully, many state and local government agencies will see the policy that we put in place and follow this as we lead the charge,” he said.



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