The remainder of the dam at Ryerson Station State Park in February. Part of the structure had been removed for safety reasons.
It has been almost eight years since the Duke Lake Dam in Ryerson Station State Park was cracked and the lake drained, but the state will announce today that it will build a new dam and refill the once-popular fishing, boating and swimming venue in Greene County.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary, Richard Allan, has scheduled a news conference in the state park this afternoon to announce a schedule for the rebuilding of the dam and 62-acre lake.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations between the DCNR and Consol Energy over who should pay for replacing the 45-year-old concrete dam that a February 2010 state investigation determined was cracked because of ground subsidence caused by Consol's Bailey longwall coal mine.
According to two sources familiar with the negotiations but who are not authorized to speak on the record, Consol and the DCNR have reached a settlement agreement that will require the Cecil-based coal mining and natural gas drilling company to pay approximately $22 million of the $29 million dam replacement cost.
To make up the remainder of the dam replacement cost, the sources said DCNR has agreed to allow Consol to drill for Marcellus Shale gas under the 1,164-acre park in exchange for an up-front payment to cover the full cost of dam replacement.
The agreement, which settles a Consol appeal of the findings that is scheduled to be heard by the state Environmental Hearing Board on May 17, contains no admission of fault by Consol.
Lynn Seay, a Consol spokeswoman, did not return several phone calls Tuesday requesting comment. Chris Novak, a DCNR spokeswoman, declined Tuesday to confirm details of the settlement prior to today's news conference by Mr. Allan.
Patrick Grenter, executive director for the Center for Coalfield Justice, an environmental group that intervened in the Environmental Hearing Board appeal, said the group has not been involved in settlement negotiations and he doesn't know what the agreement requires of Consol.
"We're hoping for a settlement that's protective of Duke Lake," Mr. Grenter said. "And protective of the surrounding environment and the surrounding communities."
He said an agreement to rebuild the dam and refill the lake would have a positive effect on those communities and the economy of the county.
Prior to the damage to the 515-foot-long dam, the park attracted approximately 160,000 visitors a year, according to the DCNR.
Cracks in the dam appeared in April 2005, and it was breached by the DCNR for safety reasons and the lake drained in July of that year. At that time, Consol's Baily Mine longwall machines were operating 350 feet below the surface and less than 1,000 feet away from the dam. Longwall mining is a full-extraction mining technique that carves out all of the coal from the 4- to 9-foot-thick Pittsburgh coal seam, and causes surface subsidence directly above the mined area and extending out at an angle to adjacent surface lands.
In February 2008, the DCNR filed a lawsuit against Consol seeking compensatory damages of $58 million, including $30 million for dam replacement, $8 million for restoration of the lake, aquatic habitat and fish, and $20 million for damages to the surrounding park.