An excavator operator builds a spillway for a whitewater kayak area just south of Holtwood Dam on Tuesday. As part of a $440 million project to expand the
An excavator operator builds a spillway for a whitewater kayak area just south of Holtwood Dam on Tuesday. As part of a $440 million project to expand the output at PPL's Holtwood Hydroelectric Facility, the utility company is working to improve water conditions for kayakers. (Bill Kalina)

Downstream of the Holtwood Dam, along the York County shore of the Susquehanna River, PPL is building a whitewater feature for kayakers.

As part of a $440 million project to expand the output at PPL's Holtwood Hydroelectric Facility, the utility company is working to improve water conditions for kayakers who would have otherwise been compromised by the expansion.

"The expansion would create conditions that weren't as great, so we decided to build a new feature," said Ryan Hill, PPL spokesman.

The expansion project, which will more than double the hydroelectric facility's output, began in 2010. Workers started to build the whitewater feature in August.

Work on the whitewater feature is suspended because of too high river flows, Hill said, but construction may resume next week. The feature is expected to be finished this fall.

"It will allow kayakers to practice tricks on backwaves," he said. Backwaves are waves that flow backward out of a hydraulic feature, such as a dam, and kayakers use them to do tricks.

Kayakers' response: Some local kayakers are aware of the project and looking forward to it.

"I'm anxious to see what it will be like when it's complete," said Brian Matas, a 33-year-old Mount Wolf resident.

He said he was concerned how the project would affect water flow around Piney Island in Lancaster County.

"It's nice that they're creating a feature for kayakers to maybe offset any negatives," Matas said.

Another kayaker, Josh Steele, said he's "all for" anything that enhances kayaking on the Susquehanna River.

"This isn't the kind of thing that happens every day," said Steele, a 28-year-old York Township resident. "It sounds like it will enhance backwaves, and I'm looking forward to checking it out when it's done."

-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@york dispatch.com.