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Feature- Joint Project Enhances Habitat, Water Quality At Memorial Lake, Lebanon County
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Even before abundant autumn rains sent the drawn-down Memorial Lake inching back to its original full-pool level, very good things already were beginning to happen at the impoundment that is the focal point of the state park bearing its name.

A steadily eroding shoreline was stabilized. Sedimentation was stemmed. Access for anglers and other lake-shore wanderers was improved. And, beneath Memorial Lake’s still waters now bisected by an irregular maze of deflecting rock piles and root wads, inhabitants by the thousands were moving into their new homes.

Welcome to the world of David F. Houser where lake habitat improvement is Job One, and the popular waterway in Lebanon County was a most recent challenge.

“Memorial had some areas affected by major erosion, making this lake a prime candidate for this large-scale, habitat improvement project,” said Houser, who oversees the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission’s lake habitat management division. “We treated the problem with the installation of rock and root-wad deflectors and some shoreline modifications.”

Using heavy equipment and working together much of last summer under the direction of Houser, Bureau of State Parks and commission work crews deposited tons of stones for riprap and manmade mini-shoreline points to curtail erosion and run-off deposits. Dozens of large tree roots were moved and positioned to afford aquatic life new structure for food and shelter.

A summer-long draw-down of the lake provided the opportunity for Memorial Lake to emerge as the fifth state park lake benefiting from this construction effort that hinges heavily on DCNR-Fish and Boat Commission cooperation.

For almost two years, Houser has worked with individual state park managers—most recently, Memorial Lake’s Angelique Croll -- and the bureau’s Stephanie Livelsberger, who oversees water- and land-related wildlife issues and habitat work with the bureau’s Resources Management and Planning Division.

Enriching Memorial Lake’s shoreline, some submerged, some jutting just above the surface, the new, man-made structure is not unlike the increasingly popular artificial reefs now enriching once-barren ocean floor along the Atlantic Coast, Houser said.

“In an area where we had erosion, run-off and sedimentation, we now have created ideal habitat for crustaceans and aquatic insects,” the commission official said. “Of course that food and cover also draws the smaller baitfish which, of course, draw the larger fish.”

And that, of course is good news for the angling army that comes to the 85-acre Memorial Lake in search of largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, white and black crappie, various species of panfish, bullhead, channel catfish, carp and sucker. Trout also are found in the lake, although they are not stocked. The lake is readily accessible for shoreline or boat fishing.

Anglers also are eagerly awaiting what would be the sixth of these joint DCNR-commission lake habitat initiatives planned for Glendale Lake at Prince Gallitzin State Park, Cambria County. Funding will determine the start of that effort, but it will not be overseen by Houser when it gets under way—the man who has devoted more than two decades to improving lake habitat for fish and fishermen retires at the end of this month.

The Memorial Lake project, he said, will be bookmarked as a shining page in his career book: “My view is that was one very fine example of the beauty of two agencies working side by side for a common goal,” Houser said. “The State Parks’ swing construction crew out of Region Four was a gem to work with, and everything just clicked.

“We—DCNR and Fish and Boat—did this together, and equally share that project. There’s no ‘me, me.’ Just a simple ‘we.’”

With two launching ramps and 56 overnight mooring slips, Memorial Lake is the keystone of a 230-acre state park surrounded by Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County. Memorial is part of a state park complex that also includes the largely undeveloped Swatara State Park, a tract on the Lebanon-Schuylkill county border.

Over the past two years, joint habitat improvement projects also have been completed at Chapman Lake, Chapman State Park, Warren County; Lake Nockamixon, Nockamixon State Park, Bucks County; Pymatuning Reservoir, Pymatuning State Park, Crawford County, and Foster Joseph Sayer Reservoir, Bald Eagle State Park, Centre County.

“A variety of factors determined what state park lakes were picked for these projects,” said the Bureau of State Parks’ Livelsberger. “We considered the fishery; a habitat need, that is, limited lake habitat; access to the project/shore zone area; and a cooperative park staff.”

Past habitat improvement efforts at state parks lakes have been undertaken in a cooperative effort with the commission that has involved not only DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks and its Wild Resource Conservation Program, but also the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation.

(reprinted from the DCNR Resource newsletter)

12/21/2009

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