Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
An osprey on a nest at Donegal Lake.
Anglers wondering exactly what is going to happen at a couple of area lakes and when will soon have answers.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is hosting a series of public meetings in the coming weeks to talk about the drawdowns of Donegal Lake in Westmoreland County and Somerset Lake in Somerset, among others.
The meeting on Donegal is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Donegal Community Center. A press release announcing that is due out on Monday.
The time and location of the meeting on Somerset Lake have yet to be determined.
The first meeting of all is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 7 in the large meeting room at the Clarion Hotel, located at 1896 Rich Highway in DuBois, to talk about Kyle Lake. It’s also being drained.
They’re all occurring because the lakes are soon going to be drawn down completely, if temporarily.
Last week Gov. Tom Wolf agreed to release $25.7 million in capital budget funding for the repair of five high-hazard unsafe dams and the design of two others. All need fixed because they have “deficiencies of such a nature that if not corrected and the dams were to fail, substantial property damage and a probable loss of human life could occur,” the commission said.
According to Rick Levis, press secretary for the commission, work schedules for Donegal and Somerset are still in development. Tentative plans, though, are to draw down Donegal this fall, maybe mid-September. As many fish as possible will be salvaged and moved Mammoth Lake, Lower Twin Lakes or Acme Lake.
Somerset is also set to be drawn down next month, with fish salvaged and moved to Shawnee State Park Lake and Loyalhanna Lake.
The hope is that both could be refilled and opened to fishing again in spring 2019.
In the meantime, it’s unclear what might happen with other “anglers” using the lakes.
Donegal Lake, for example, has been home to a breeding pair of ospreys for years. They’re fish-eating raptors.
What will become of them when there’s no lake to hold fish?
That’s hard to say, said Dan Brauning, chief of the wildlife diversity section at the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“Typically, most wildlife doesn’t rely on just one food source. They probably have other creeks or ponds within flying distance that they can or could use to hunt,” Brauning said. “So I suspect they have other options.”
They’re likely “habituated” to Donegal Lake, though, and will most likely return to nesting there once the lake is refilled, he said. Whether they nest there while the lake is dry or take a year or two off is less certain, he said.