The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 9, 2012

Que releases to halt in drought situations

David Hurst

JOHNSTOWN — The authority revised its whitewater release policy Thursday to halt releases in situations where the state declares drought watches and warnings in Cambria or Somerset counties.

The CSA pulled the plug on one release late in the summer because of a drought, saying it would be a foolish public relations move to lower the reservoir for recreation at a time when residents across the county are being asked to conserve water.

That move came on the heels of a last-minute pitch by local leaders to release water, if necessary, for Gov. Tom Corbett’s kayak tour through the region. The CSA eventually agreed to it – but the release wasn’t needed.

CSA members have suggested, in hindsight, that a release would not have been the right move, given a drought declaration.

“Up until that point,” CSA Chairman Jim Greco said, “we didn’t even think about it.”

“We thought about water levels and the positives about releases – but we never really considered droughts,” he added.

Benscreek Canoe Club members said they can understand the CSA has reservations.

Canoe Club member Steve Podratsky said the region’s typical drought season, August, usually falls at a time when paddlers don’t expect to load their canoes and kayaks into the water.

This past August was truly a rarity, he said, noting parts of Somerset County received 8 inches of rain over a two-week period, creating good paddling conditions in the north, while leaving ground conditions dry in Meyersdale.

“It’d be nice if the state gets to the point where they can break drought watches and warnings down into areas, rather than whole counties, but we can live with this (decision),” Podratsky said, noting that many times, the ability to have a release during a dry August wouldn’t make a difference. “Most of the time, this will impact everyone at a time of the year when it’s already the lowest levels of the year.”

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