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Mud-clogged boat access brings calls for action

September 27, 2010
“This is a shame.” Larry Thomas can’t help but shake his head when he looks at the Bonnie Brae Boat Access, located on the Allegheny River two miles north of Tidioute. Thomas owns a camp near the boat launch and enjoys fishing on the river. However, his enjoyment is often quashed when he is force to walk around the launch, up the shore, then wade down to the spot where he catches minnows. He is reluctant to step foot off the cement launch due to the build up of sediment in the access area. “It’s terrible that we as taxpayers pay for this and we can’t even use it,” he said. He added, “People get stuck in that mud.” Thomas is not alone in his concerns and unwillingness to use the launch. According Josh Lindell, who owns a livery a few miles north of the Bonnie Brae access, the position and condition of the launch doesn’t make sense. “The tributary just allows all the sediment to spin right there behind it into the launch,” Lindell said. “If that’s the way it was naturally, why would you put a boat launch in that location. If it was known to be that way, why wouldn’t you plan to dredge it out every 5 years or something.” When Lindell takes clients out on the river, he is tries to avoid the Bonnie Brae launch. “We only use it when people demand it. Even then, we try to talk them out of it,” he said. Although Lindell didn’t view the launch as a safety or health hazard, he added, “It is gross and it is so hard to use.” Infuriated by the lack of maintenance on the boat access, Thomas has aired his grievances to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). John Sinclair, chief of the PFBC’s division of construction and maintenance, admits there is an issue. “As far as Bonnie Brae is concerned, we are aware of the sediment build up at the ramp and have it on the list of projects to be taken care of,” Sinclair wrote in an email response. “In recent years, a gravel bar formed on a tributary that is located upstream of the Bonnie Brae access. The tributary would always keep sediment moving downstream, since the gravel bar has formed, the sediment has now started to fill in our launch ramp.” Sinclair explained that the PFBC owns and maintains in excess of 280 access areas across the Commonwealth. Each access area is inspected at least three times a year by regional maintenance staff, and the PFBC maintain a comprehensive database of each of our areas including a five-year projected access area renovation list, he said. Even though Sinclair and the PFBC commission recognize the problem, there are no plans on the horizon for dredging the Bonnie Brae launch area. “At this time, we do not have a definite time-frame for the access to be dredged,” he said. “I can tell you that if there are no biologic concerns, it would take a minimum of three to four months for the permitting phase and a month to dredge the facility.” To dredge the access area, the PFBC would have to apply for a dredging permit with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the local conservation district to remove the sediment. Sinclair indicated that there are more steps to the process including a biological review. “There is a substantial amount of material that needs to be removed and it will more than likely require a large scale dredging operation,” he said. When told the PFBC’s response, Thomas said, “I’ve heard that same thing for 10 to 12 years. That’s a bureaucratic game they play.” According to Sinclair, no one other than Thomas has complained about the Bonnie Brae Boat Access. Thomas candidly admitted that he can’t help but voice his opinion and advocate for the outdoor recreation spot. “All this nice stretch of river and people don’t even want use it because of this,” he said, point to the murky and muddy access area. “It’s just a shame.”

Article Photos

Times Observer photo by Lydia Cottrell
Boat access
Larry Thomas stands at the edge of the water on the Bonnie Brae Boat Access and points out to where the build of sediment ends.



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