Sayers Dam doing its job, officials say

SHANNIN ALLISON/THE EXPRESS Above, debris floats up against the causeway at the Foster Joseph Sayers Dam at Howard during the recent prolonged rain and high water. This photo is looking south toward Howard Borough, not far from Route 150.

From staff reports

HOWARD — Additional staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are on hand at the Foster Joseph Sayers Dam to monitor and prepare for the potential for the dam’s highest water levels since Tropical Storm Agnes passed over the region in 1972.

Between the already saturated ground and rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, Sayers Dam has been holding back water peaking last week at 60 percent of the dam’s capacity before receding, said Commander Col. John Litz, who heads the Corps’ Baltimore District.

Given forecasts for between now and Wednesday, rain from remnants of Hurricane Florence may substantially increase the water level again over the course of the week.

Dam operators and engineers are providing 24-hour monitoring of the project, measuring the water level, water pressure against the earthen structure, and outflows downstream.

SHANNIN ALLISON/THE EXPRESS This road leading to the public swim area at Foster Joseph Sayers Dam remains closed due to high water.

“We remain confident that Sayers Dam will continue to perform as designed and will continue to reduce flood risks to communities downstream,” Col. Litz said.

The dam is designed to hold back more than 32 billion gallons of water before spillway flow and has prevented an estimated $212 million in flood damage since the project was completed in 1969, the Corps estimates.

“The Corps of Engineers is committed to ensuring local officials, the public and other stakeholders are kept updated regarding the status of the dam to ensure they can make informed decisions during this high water event,” Col. Litz said.

The 100-foot high and 1.3 mile long dam forms Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir.

Completed in 1969, the reservoir is named in honor of Foster Joseph Sayers, a Private 1st Class machine gunner in the U.S. Army and World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. The 1,730-acre lake is the focal point for water-based recreation at Bald Eagle State Park.

The project controls a drainage area of 339 square miles, or 88 percent of the drianage area above Beech Creek and 43 percent of the Bald Eagle Creek drainage area.

It reduces flood heights on Bald Eagle Creek below the dam and along the West Branch below Lock Haven

The borough of Howard, with a population of just under 800, is located upstream of the pool and is protected by a levee.

After Tropical Storm Agnes hit the region in 1972, Howard became isolated for nearly two weeks because water was overflowing the causeway.

Reportedly, fire companies with water rescue teams in the region are on standby.

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