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Chester County Press

Township compromises on Somerset Lake clean-up

04/17/2018 01:58PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

With a big lake with a lot of problems serving as the narrative of his presentation, Bill Ward of the Lake Committee at Somerset Lake came to the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors meeting on April 16 with a two-part wish list, and he received one of them.

The board agreed to fund the $2,500 purchase of a stream flow/turbidity monitor for the Broad Run watershed, which will be assembled by the Stroud Water Research Laboratory and given to the citizen-scientist group for the purpose of collecting data in an effort to better understand the impact the watershed is having on the 28-acre Somerset Lake's health and future.

The monitor will be installed by Marion Waggoner and Dave Yake of the Save Our Water Committee, and will be placed on private property adjacent to the lake.

The monitor consists of two components: a pole-mounted land unit containing data storage cards, battery, solar panel and cell phone antenna; and a unit that will be immersed in the stream that contains a sensor that measures water depth, conductivity and temperature, and a turbidity sensor. It will allow the group to measure the impact of sediment, phosphate and nitrate flow from the watershed to the lake.

The addition of the monitor is expected to quickly become a major player in an effort to improve the overall health of the man-made lake, which has in recent years become a depository for tons of sediment and phosphate coming from nearby tributaries, that has led to lower water levels and stream bank erosion.

“Every lake is the product of its watershed, and Somerset Lake's watershed has two significant problems,” Ward said. “The first of these is widespread – stream bank erosion in the Broad Run [watershed]. This carries hundreds of tons of sediment into the lake each year, and Broad Run is the primary culprit here, particularly as it passes through St. Anthony in the Hills.

“The second problem is the large load of nutrients that are carried into the lake, primarily phosphate, which fuels algae growth in the summer months.

The lake committee's 2018 budget, approved by the development's board of directors, includes about $37,000 in operating expenses, but it's small change compared to the anticipated cost of addressing the lake's greatest and most immediate need – a shoreline restoration project, which will require additional testing and dredging at the north end of the lake. Over the last three years, Ward said that the committee has spent over $250,000 to fund projects intended to clean the lake, which included the addition of oxygen aerating systems throughout the lake, which cost $50,000 and was paid for by the development's residents.

While the board chose to absorb the cost of the stream flow/turbidity monitor, it rejected Ward's second request: To have the township fund the $9,460 study proposed by Skelly and Loy, a Maryland-based environmental consulting firm. During the vote, supervisors Richard Ayotte and Steve Allaband made a motion to approve the payment of the study, but the motion was defeated by a vote of 3-2.

In its Jan. 4, 2018 letter sent to the Somerset Lake Services Corp., the firm proposed to evaluate the White Clay Wild and Scenic Management Plan, the New Garden Township TMDL Plan and the Somerset Lake Management Plan for cost effectiveness of joint opportunities to reduce lake sediment; come up with cost-sharing opportunities for three projects in the watershed to reduce sediment and phosphorous; create three plan views and concept level drawings for sediment-reducing projects; and evaluate the projects for external funding support.

In pitching the firm's proposal, Ward said that it comes with a sense of urgency.

“I think what we're trying to do is slow Mother Nature, to stop the natural progression that will determine whether or not the lake will become a swamp and then a wetlands, and nobody in the community hopes to see that happen,” Ward told the board. “At the present rate of sedimentation build-up, we're gaining about a foot of sediment every five to six years. Hundreds of tons are coming in every year, and we're losing about a foot of water depth every five or six years, which means that in 75 years, the lake will largely be filled in.

“Our hope is that we can slow that considerably by incorporating stream bank control measures.”

One rationale behind the board's rejection of the paying for the proposal had to do with the potential backlash it may receive by funding a project that will impact only ten percent of the township's population.

“Twelve hundred residents out of 12,000 residents [in New Garden Township],” said board chairman Randy Geouque. “Private lane. Private fishing and boating. How do I justify paying for this to the rest of the residents?”

Ward said that helping to preserve the lake will be a benefit to everyone in the township, from a value standpoint.

“There are studies that demonstrate that every measurable improvement in lake water clarity results in measurably increased property values, and thereby an increase in the tax base,” he said.

After additional discussion with Ward, the board decided to put the support of the Somerset Lake proposal on the township's financial back burner, while it focuses on the payments for other projects, which include the acquisition of St. Anthony in the Hills.

In other business, the supervisors approved a $991,659 project that will pave, tar and chip, seal and paint several roadways throughout the township. Those roads include the paving of the entire length of Reynolds, McCue and Laurel Bridge roads; and a portion of Scarlett and Sheehan roads; and the tar-and-chipping and sealing of Rosemont Drive, St. George's Court, Whitney Court, Hamilton Road, Queen's Court, St. David's Court, Kings Court, Langton Hill Road, Harrington Court, Lake Shore Lane, North Shore Lane, McCormick Drive, Okie Drive, Beeson Court, White Clay Drive, Briarwood Court, Delpa Drive and Timer Mill Lane.

The board also gave approval to the township to apply for three grants: a Transportation and Community Development Initiative grant through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to pay for streetscape and sidewalk development for Toughkenamon, in the amount of $60,000; a Department of Community and Economic Development grant, totaling $250,000, to help pay for the phase two expansion of New Garden Township Park; and a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant, estimated between $250,000 and $300,000, for the acquisition of St. Anthony in the Hills.

Jim Deluzio, a New Garden Township representative for the Kennett Library, was joined by other library representatives in providing the board with an update of the library's finances and capital campaign that will help pay for a new library in Kennett Square. He was joined by board member Barbara Bolton, treasurer Bill McLaughlin and library director Megan Walters.

Calling the library “financially healthy,” McLaughlin said that in 2017, the library enjoyed its first surplus since 2010, and currently has a portfolio of $3.9 million. He said that the capital campaign that was formed to help create a new, 30,000-square-foot library on the Weinstein lot in Kennett Square is in the final stages of completing its schematic design phase.

A public appeal program to help fund the library has raised $90,000 so far, a good dent on the way to helping to fund a facility that McLaughlin estimated will cost $15 million to build and is expected to break ground in 2020.

The annual New Garden Growers Market will kick off its 2018 season on Saturdays from May 5 to Nov. 17, at its location near the entrance of New Garden Township Park. The market will feature 13 full-time and 18 rotating vendors this year, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

New Garden Flying Field General Manager Jon Martin listed upcoming events scheduled over the next several months at the facility, which will include a Runway 5K race on June 3, that is expected to bring in as many as 3,000 participants; the Chester County Balloon Festival, from June 22-24; the Festival of Flight on Aug. 18-19; and the tenth year of the Future Aviators Camp, scheduled this year from July 9-13, and Aug. 6-10.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].