Lush meadow overtakes empty lake bed as massive prep under way for new Lake Williams dam

·2 min read

The Lake Williams dam project is well under way –  on schedule and the weather has been cooperating, according to Mark Wheeler, chief operating officer for the York Water Company.

After tree removal last year, the current phase of the project includes extensive excavation with a goal of digging out the old spillway and surrounding area to get down to rock, Wheeler said.

Safety requirements require that new dam construction be attached to rock. The century-old dam was constructed on soil. Once rock is exposed on their entire site, building the new dam can proceed, he said.

During construction, water is diverted around the dam, resulting in an extended period of time for nature to take its course. The old stream bed is visible meandering through a lush green meadow - previously the lake bed. The radical shift in landscape revisits the valley a century ago before the first Lake Williams dam was built.

From the South George Street bridge, which connects Lake Redman and Williams, rushing water leaves the upper lake and looks like a mountain stream rushing into a green meadow. Looking from the boat launch area on Lake Williams, rolling green waves of grass replace the watery view across the lake bed and terminate at the massive excavation project.

Video:Check out the new Lake Williams dam, how it works, with historical photos from 1911

Water rushes from Lake Redman to Lake Williams in a view from South George Street. Lake Williams has mostly turned into a grassy meadow.
Water rushes from Lake Redman to Lake Williams in a view from South George Street. Lake Williams has mostly turned into a grassy meadow.
Looking across what was Lake Williams appears to be rolling green hills looking toward the dam construction project.
Looking across what was Lake Williams appears to be rolling green hills looking toward the dam construction project.

Read more:Century-old Lake Williams Dam is being demolished; what happens next?

The new dam will hold the same amount of water as it does today, JT Hand, president and CEO of the York Water Company said in an earlier interview. In addition to normal rainfall, it's designed to prepare for a worst-case scenario: a storm that dumps more than 40 inches of rain within 72 hours. It would allow 10 feet of water to go over the top of the spillway.

An old stream channel is visible cutting through the dry basin of Lake Williams. Work is under  way to replace its dam. The lake was drained to allow construction, creating a very different landscape. This is a view of the work from one of the walking trails. Venturing into the lake bed and construction area is prohibited.
An old stream channel is visible cutting through the dry basin of Lake Williams. Work is under way to replace its dam. The lake was drained to allow construction, creating a very different landscape. This is a view of the work from one of the walking trails. Venturing into the lake bed and construction area is prohibited.

During the the project, visitors are asked to not enter the lake bed or the construction area. The best way to watch the changes for yourself are to stick to open trails around the park.

Learn more:As part of the Lake Williams dam replacement, oaks removed will help rebuild Horn farmhouse

The new dam is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

I have captured life through the lens since 1983, and am currently a visual journalist with the USAToday Network. You can reach me at pkuehnel@ydr.com.

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Lake Williams dam excavation under way, empty lake bed turns green