As the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission moves to attack a growing list of its partially or completely drained lakes due to problems with aging dams, the agency is holding up Leaser Lake in northwestern Lehigh County (almost northeastern Berks) at a model of how the huge bills for needed repairs will need to be met.The commission estimates it has an $83 million statewide backlog of major impoundment upgrades that are needed and has already drained - partially or completely - Leaser Lake, Ingham Spring Dam in Bucks County, Opossum Lake in Cumberland County, Colyer Lake in Centre County, Dutch Fork Lake in Washington County and Upper Hereford Manor Lake in Beaver County.

Leaser Lake is expected to be restored over the next four years though a collaborative funding package that includes $750,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $2.25 million from the Growing Greener II initiative, and $1.8 million through the state's capital budget.

The construction schedule has projected that work will begin next year.

Names for Frederick Leaser, a Colonial farmer who helped to hide the Liberty Bell at Zion's Church in Allentown to protect it from the British during the Revolutionary War, Leader Lake currently stands at about 40 acres of water, about a third of its intended 117 acres.

The centerpiece of a 540-acre Lehigh County park, the lake was built in 1971.

Leaks first showed up in the earthen dam in the early 1990s. When repairs failed to end all the leaks, in 1999 the commission lowered the water level from a depth of about 45 feet to about 25 feet.

However, with light at the end of the tunnel for restoration of the lake, the Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation is developing a facilities master plan for the lake and surrounding public land that could include a loop trail around the lake, wildlife blinds, a handicapped accessible fishing deck, an orienteering course, preservation of additional open space, and a variety of environmental education and recreation programs.

When Leaser Lake was filled to capacity, it was a major recreational destination in the region that saw heavy use nearly every weekend spring through fall, with sailing regattas, fishing tournaments, youth fishing derbies and other events.

Marcus Schneck also is editor of Destinations, the monthly travel and outdoor publication from BerksMont Newspapers. Contact him at mschneck@comcast.net.

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