TOWNSHIP OF MUHLENBERG, Pa. — Several weeks ago, the city of Reading began the process of draining Lake Bernhart so that the dam, deemed unsafe by the Department of Environmental Protection, could be inspected.
“That’s where I fell in love with fishing, and now it’s not here anymore,” says Scott Weaver who lives in Shillington.
Weaver started fishing at Bernhart Dam Lake in Muhlenberg Township nearly 30 years ago.
“We used to ride bikes here when I was little, find hooks, find worms, and go fishing here,” Weaver says.
Lee Reed, who lives in Laureldale and has been here his whole life, always tries to save as much fishing time as possible. “I used to do it all the time,” Reed says. “I’m retired now and losing my job.”
The town of Reading owns the dam and began draining the lake in late April, about 7 weeks ago. Since then, some of the wildlife has evolved, but it has been difficult for those who have spent time here to see it disappear.
The City of Reading says development of the Lake Bernhart project is ongoing and the first and most critical step in the process was to dewater the impoundment by removing the spillway. City officials say relevant data is being collected, along with advice from experts and regulators that will help develop an environmentally sound resolution for the area.
“It’s just another disappearing place where kids can’t go hang out and grab sunglasses,” Reed explains.
The Department of Environmental Protection deemed the dam unsafe and said it needed to be drained and inspected.
A DEP spokesperson said at this point the drawdown is complete and the reservoir is a foot away, where it will remain until the city determines whether to rehabilitate the dam or remove it entirely.
The DEP says it is also up to the owner of the dam to have the inspection carried out. At this point, it is unclear if this has been done.
“I wish they would rebuild the dam and make it a good place again,” Weaver says.