whitewater

The annual Stonycreek Rendezvous is expected to draw boaters and rafters from across the region and from neighboring states.

The Benscreek Canoe and Kayak Club’s event May 13-15 will feature canoe races, a whitewater rodeo, music, food and other activities centered at Greenhouse Park.

There’s just one hitch.

The amount of water flowing from Somerset County’s Quemahoning Reservoir will be less than expected because vibration problems stemming from a new release valve will not be fixed in time.

Club members had hoped for a water release of 500 cu­bic feet per second, but will settle for 350 cubic feet, club president Stephen Podratsky said.

“At least it’s something,” he said. “It will be twice as much as we had in years past.”

Cambria Somerset Authority leaders are expected award bids on the repair project next month.

Club members had hoped the valve work would be done in time for the rendezvous. Instead, there will be a May 13 ceremony dedicating the new whitewater valve, and work is scheduled to begin after the rendezvous.

Boating advocates raised more than $1 million for installation of the specially fabricated valve – measuring  4 feet in diameter – which was set in place last summer.

Initial valve tests, however, showed excess vibration in the Quemahoning’s water-intake tower.

The fix was delayed while the authority and the whitewater partners hashed out who is paying for the project.

The whitewater partners will pay for the repairs, estimated at about $40,000. Also, the canoe club and its supporters will pay $10,000 for spare parts and vibration-monitoring equipment and up to another $13,400 for the annual releases and screen cleaning at the Que.

But, with the new release valve in place, Conemaugh Township leaders expect the annual rendezvous to grow.

“Once the word gets out and you have a release on a hot summer day, you’re going to have people traveling greater distances to spend money,” supervisors Chairman Steve Buncich said.

The Route 403 Pickup and convenience store and gas station opened recently near Greenhouse Park.

The business is hoping to tap into summer crowds once kayaking begins, store manager Brad Stofko said.

The whitewater park has generated a business opportunity for Chad Gontkovic and Jill Skowron, owners of Coal Tubin’.

The business in Johnstown’s Moxham neighborhood is opening for its second season renting river tubes and shuttling people to Greenhouse Park in a 14-passenger van.

From there, depending water levels, riders can float for two to three hours down the Stonycreek River.

“We were just looking for a niche,” Gontkovic said.

“I’ve seen the hard work from the grassroots groups cleaning up the river, so we decided to jump it,” he said.

Coal Tubin’ rents river tubes for $10. A season pass is available for $50.

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