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Drawdown begins at lake

Those who are going to the lake at Whipple Dam State Park may have to wait until next spring, as it is being drawn down for improvements.

According to a press release from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the reason behind the drawdown is to remove accumulated sediment from the lake bed to help with the ecological health of the lake and restore recreational opportunities impeded by silt.

As of right now, the silt averages 3.5 feet in depth throughout the lake.

Mike Dinsmore, manager for Whipple Dam State Park, said the process has already started.

“We do it in steps,” he said. “There’s an antique draw structure, as the dam was built in the 1930s. We have to pull stop logs, and place 4x6-inch pieces of lumber in the front of it, and drop the lake levels down 6 inches at a time.”

“We’re going to start drudging after that, because the upper end of the lake is full of sediment,” Dinsmore added.

Additional projects will be completed including the installation of a wheelchair-accessible ramp into the swimming area; construction of a new wheelchair-accessible fishing pier; paving repairs to roadways; and improvements to the dam structure.

Park roads or portions of park roads may be closed while the project is underway.

According to Dinsmore, the last time the lake was drawn down at Whipple Dam was in late 2012, early 2013 to freeze out an evasive species.

During this process, DCNR is working with the state Fish and Boat Commission regarding some fish in the lake.

“We’re working with them to potentially find and relocate fish out of the lake into other lakes most likely,” said Dinsmore.

The work is expected to be completed by next spring, pending any delays because of weather.

“We’re hoping to be done by spring time to get into the regular fishing and swimming season, but we’re at the mercy of the weather,” said Dinsmore. “If we get a cold, dry winter, the contractor can do it without a problem. If we get a warm, wet winter, and the sediment will be wet, that will give us a bunch of delays.”

Though there will be a little bit of water, it will only be seen in a channel as well as a couple of low spots during the drawdown.

Fishing and boating will be permitted until the lake is at full drawdown, but as the water level recedes, boating access will be severely limited. The boat launch will eventually be unavailable. Once the lake is draw down to the level needed to facilitate the work, it will be closed to all activities.

The road to the lake will also have limited access during the project.

Dragonfly swarms spotted in area

Area residents have seen swarms of dragonflies in the county recently, but those swarms are not entirely uncommon, though seeing them may be.

“To the best of my understanding, (dragonfly swarms) are not an uncommon event, but it is one of those things that’s rarely seen,” said Joy Hosler, professor of biology at Juniata College. “There are swarms that are happening, but we’re usually not noticing them for whatever reason.”

Hosler said dragonfly swarms, which have been prevalent enough to be picked up on weather radar, are commonly associated with two events.

“There are feeding swarms, and dragonflies are collecting in one area because there’s a rich food source,” he said. “It’s likely a Mayfly hatch, or there’s food around.

“The ones we’re seeing right now, however, they’re migration swarms,” Hosler added. “It’s not entirely clear on what triggers a migration swarm, as the research is not extensive.”

Research indicates that dragonfly swarms likely occur after a cold front has passed through the area, said Hosler.

“Researchers think the cold front passing through is a cue to dragonflies it’s time to head south for the winter,” he said. “They’re going to end up migrating like birds and monarch butterflies do.”

Though they may be heading south, where they end up is unknown.

“It’s not entirely clear where they are headed,” said Hosler. “There have been swarms identified over the Gulf of Mexico, and those swarms show up in Mexico, so the thought is they may be migrating over Central America.

“The thing is, dragonflies don’t live very long — no longer than a season,” he added. “Those that are migrating south, scientists think they’re migrating to warmer climate, having babies. Then, their babies will hatch, then fly north in the summer time to feed.”

While it’s been dry in recent weeks, a wet, warm start to the summer may be mean a bumper crop for dragonflies in the area, so when they do swarm, people will notice more.

“Dragonflies spend most of their time around water, where they lay their eggs,” said Hosler. “They’re in less populated areas around water.”

People on Facebook have said they’ve noticed dragonflies in areas from Shirleysburg to Hesston and Alexandria.


Members of the Madden-Wennick American Legion Post 518 in Orbisonia/Rockhill celebrated the post’s 100th anniversary Sunday afternoon. From the left, Sons of the American Legion member Sam Beatty, auxiliary caterer Rose Gordon and adjutant Tyler Gordon looked at memorabilia on display from over the years. The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States.

Court upholds abuse case sentence

The state Superior Court is upholding the sentence Huntingdon County imposed on a Morris Township man who pleaded guilty to indecent assault charges for abusing young family members.

Through his legal representative, Daniel Hostetler, 57, currently housed at SCI Houtzdale in Clearfield County, sought post-sentence relief in the form of a lesser sentence.

Hostetler, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced last year to 1 to 4 years in prison. The case launched in February 2018 when one of the victims, now an adult, reported the abuse to state police at Huntingdon.

“We’re certainly satisfied that the Superior Court upheld Judge Zanic’s sentence,” Huntingdon County Assistant District Attorney Julia Wilt said. “This case was very difficult for the victim, who has been living with the memory of abuse for years. We are glad she can get some closure.”

The appeal presented to the Superior Court argues Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic placed too much emphasis on Hostetler’s familial relationship to the victim when he imposed sentence Nov. 29, 2018.

“Despite (Hostelter’s) show of remorsefulness, his cooperation with law enforcement and his lack of subsequent offense, the (trial) court chose to sentence (him) to a sentence which had a minimum which was the top of the aggravated range and a maximum which was the statutory maximum for each offense,” the appeal states. “The (trial) court’s reasoning that the guidelines did not adequately take into account the familial relationship between (Hostelter) and the victim was not an appropriate reason to impose a sentence in the aggravated rage.”

The Superior Court determined the various considerations used by Zanic to reach a decision on Hostetler’s penalty were appropriate.

“Upon review, we find that the trial court took into account all necessary considerations, including but not limited to, the nature of the offenses, PSI report, victim impact statement, appellant’s allocution and letters it received from appellant’s supporters,” the Superior Court wrote. “Based upon the foregoing, for the reasons it cited on the record, the trial court concluded that the imposition of aggravated-range sentences was appropriate. We see no abuse of discretion in this determination.”

Hostetler entered guilty pleas to indecent assault without consent and two charges of indecent assault on a person less than 16 years of age. Each charges is a misdemeanor 2 offense. The two charges of indecent assault on a person less than 16 merged for sentencing purposes.

At sentencing, Zanic said “…what the sentencing guidelines don’t consider is the fact that this was your child.” He explained that relationship, in a situation when the person who was supposed to provide protection for the child was her abuse, adds weigh to the offense.

The victim who reported Hostetler to police presented a statement in court, recalling how at age 14, she decided “to be a voice, to stop the family trend of abuse.” She said the defendant “perverted our relationship” — a relationship that should have been filled with “trust and love.”

Wilt explained that since Hostelter did not have a prior criminal record, the offenses carried a standard range between restorative sanctions (probation, restitution and fines) and up to three months’ incarceration. Under those same guidelines, the aggravated range is six months.

“When a judge deviates from the sentencing guidelines and imposed a sentence in or beyond the aggravated range, he must place the reasons for deviation on the record at the time of sentencing,” Wilt said. “In this case, Judge Zanic appropriately stated his reasons for imposing an aggravated sentence.”

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hostetler subjected the victim to inappropriate touching over a four-year period, from October 2002 to October 2006.

The case also highlighted the laws which require persons working with youth, including church leaders, to report child abuse to authorities.

Hostetler’s pastor, David Fisher entered a “no contest” plea to endangering the welfare of a child, a felony 3 offense, for his failure to alert police about the Hostetler’s matter. He was placed on probation for 15 months and was required to enroll in training on how to report suspected sexual abuse.

State police at Huntingdon say instead of taking the matter to law enforcement, Fisher chose to handle in-house.

Rebecca can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Motorists urged to for farm equipment

Late summer and early fall is a busy time for farmers across the county, requiring them to often travel rural roads with farm equipment.

It’s also an important time for motorists to be on the lookout for the large, slow-moving equipment and use caution to protect themselves and farmers.

“This time of year there’s lot of (tractors) out (on the road),” said Rodney Davis of the Huntingdon County Farm Bureau and a West Township farmer. “You use tractors for every part of your farming operation, from putting the feed away, to the hauling the manure, to planting the crops.”

Although changes in the agriculture industry over the years have resulted in the use of fewer tractors, the size of equipment has increased.

“Historically, I would say there are fewer tractors on the road than in the past but the equipment is larger,” said Davis.

“The percentage that is involved in agriculture is lower than it was before, around 2% now, so the people who are farming are farming more acres. Our situation, we’re farming three farms that were once run independently.”

Sarah States, a resident of Hesston immersed in the farming world, says she’s worried about people driving recklessly around tractors.

“It scares me because I’m married to a farmer, my brothers farm, and I have friends who are farmers,” she said. “I’d like to see more awareness and see the police fining people who pass around the equipment, because they can’t see. And right now there are more on the road because there is more crop work that needs done.”

Davis agrees that drivers should be more cautious when driving in rural areas.

“It’s pretty well documented that drivers are more distracted now with people using their cellphones, coupled with that the vehicles that people drive have gotten faster and you’re lured into a sense of safety. But you have to be vigilant and be aware coming around the next hill or the next turn there could be a tractor moving slower than you are.”

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.