York County’s lake is low to protect people, but that’s a problem for wildlife those people love


YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — The problem wasn’t new, but flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida proved something really needed to be done about a 250-year-old dam at Silver Lake, in the Lewisberry area of York County.

Homeowners there say they don’t disagree with that finding by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

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“We understand why the regulations are in place,” said Van Hoffman, who lives with his wife in a house built in 1927 by his great-grandparents. “We want to follow the rules.”

The problem: the cost, which no one knows for sure but everyone agrees will be well into the six figures.

For now — to prevent future flooding until the dam is fortified — DEP is requiring the lake to remain drawn down.

“If not properly maintained, dams can pose a risk to life and property downstream,” the department said in a statement to abc27 News. “As a precaution, DEP is requiring the Silver Lake reservoir level to remain in a partially drawn-down condition until the dam is appropriately rehabilitated.”

Silver Lake is about 30 inches below its normal level, said Van Hoffman, the fourth-generation resident.

Other “residents” — including four endangered bird species plus no-longer-endangered bald eagles — have been there even longer. Folks like Hoffman and John Taylor — who moved there three years ago, when the lake was full — worry the low water levels threaten the health of fish. That, in turn — in addition to making the lake less attractive to humans who fish there — could mean less food for the birds. The lake, Taylor explained, is along what’s called the “northern flyway,” a key corridor for migratory birds.

Taylor and Hoffman are both board directors of the Silver Lake Community Association.

The challenge: Either come up with the money — however much money it is — or deal with the short-term aesthetic and quality-of-life consequences, and longer-term environmental consequences, of a low lake.

So they’re trying to come up with the money. They’re hoping for donations of money from those who can afford it or otherwise labor at what they call “work party Saturdays,” fixing what they can with their own hands.

Bank loans are a possibility too. And they’re exploring what would be called a “stewardship program,” through which people who have enough money to do this would make interest-free loans to front the cost of the repairs and then be repaid by the association during a 20-year period.

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