Alderfer also is chairman of the Lower Macungie Advisory Council. He described the Little Lehigh as Lower Macungie’s spine, saying it flows from one end of the township to the other. He suggested that Lower Macungie work with Wildlands Conservancy to remove the Wild Cherry Lane dam, which he called a bottleneck that increases upstream flooding.
Fach said removing dams reduces flooding. She explained a stream above a dam already is close to the top of its banks. When heavy rains come, those streams go over their banks.
Dams also are attractive nuisances that create public safety issues. She said property owners may be responsible if someone gets hurt. Not only can people slip on algae-covered concrete, but the force of water going over even a small dam can knock them down. Fach said unsuspecting rafters on the Little Lehigh have gone over dams. A dog recently drowned in the dam at Jordan Park in Allentown.
Facht also said dams don’t last forever, adding property owners face large bills if they have to remove a breached or damaged dam from a stream.
Removing dams and planting buffers of vegetation along streams discourages large flocks of geese that now land on pond-like surfaces above dams and waddle across adjoining lawns, creating concentrations of droppings that add too much nutrient to slow-moving water, causing more algae to grow.
Fach said Moravian College students have monitored the health of the two streams above the dams, checking factors such as water temperature, oxygen levels and fish counts. Moravian students will do comparative monitoring after the dams are removed and the banks have been restored and planted.
Most of the money for the watershed restoration project --$331,000 -- came from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Another $75,000 was provided by FishAmerica Foundation and $25,000 came from American Rivers.
Fach said a dam owned by Wildlands Conservancy at its Pool Wildlife Sanctuary was one of the first removed in Pennsylvania when it was taken out in 2000. She said the conservancy also removed three dams from Allentown’s Trout Creek two years ago.