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July 19, 2013

Work at Que changes whitewater releases

JOHNSTOWN — Two construction projects at the Quemahoning Reservoir will shuffle whitewater release dates the rest of the summer.

Work scheduled on the Que’s intake tower has forced the Cambria Somerset Authority, which operates the recreation area, to cancel releases planned for the end of July and August.

But a Somerset County project to bring down and replace the Kiefl Bridge, commonly known as the Green Bridge, will require lowering the water level for work to occur, a move that CSA officials said will mean new whitewater releases in September and October.

“We’ve got to release water anyway, so we might as well (allow it) for the boaters. It makes sense,” CSA Chairman Jim Greco said.

The releases will be needed so crews can work on the bridge from below, he said.

A vote by the authority last week allowed the Benscreek Canoe Club to schedule new whitewater releases for September and October. Releases typically are a problem at the end of summer when conditions usually are dry and water conservation is deemed paramount, but they will be needed for the bridge work regardless of reservoir levels.

“That’s awesome news,” Bens­creek Canoe Club member Steve Podratsky said, adding that the club understood that intake tower work needed to happen and several originally planned release dates would be lost.

“We think this is going to give us some really nice releases through the month of September,” he said.

The planned September releases at the Que and separate drawdowns from Indian Lake to allow dam work to occur there will provide “almost daily opportunities to paddle” that month, Podratsky said.

The Stonycreek’s whitewater has drawn 500 paddlers on average – often as many as 300 on Saturdays alone – on weekends when releases occur, he said.

The club advertises the

releases on its website,

Work on the Kiefl Bridge on Green Bridge Road is expected to begin after Labor Day, said Adam Zernick, project manager for Mercer-based Clearwater Construction, which is handling the $1.3 million project.

The bridge crosses the Que on the reservoir’s southwestern portion in Jenner Township.

Built in 1939, the span has been deteriorating for years despite upgrades in the mid-1990s, Somerset County records show.

The 170-foot bridge is county-owned, but state and federal funds have been secured to pay for the work, county Commissioner John Vatavuk said.

Clearwater will use a floating barge to do some of the dismantling and rebuilding, Zernick said, noting that will allow the company to work from below the existing bridge.

A seven-mile detour will be required, sending motorists from Green Bridge Road to Route 601, the main street through Boswell, and then to Pilltown Road, project engineers have said.

Work is underway on replacement of an aged gate inside the Que’s intake tower, CSA manager Earl Waddell said.

Divers will handle part of that work.

The project is expected to continue into August, Waddell said.

Whitewater changes

Here’s how work on the Quemahoning Reservoir’s intake tower and the Kiefl Bridge over the southwestern portion of the reservoir will affect planned whitewater releases:

July 27-28: Canceled.

Aug. 10-11: Canceled.

Aug. 24-25: Canceled.

Sept. 7-8: New.

Sept. 21-22: New.

Oct. 5-6: New.

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