The East Branch, Clarion River Project was authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1944. Construction of the dam impoundment and preparation of the lake area was initiated in June of 1947 and came to full operations in October of 1952.
Since its completion in 1952, East Branch Dam has prevented flood damages estimated to be more than $98 million, equivalent to $456 million in today’s dollars. During the June 1972 floods from Tropical Storm Agnes, the East Branch prevented more than $20 million in damages, equivalent to $139 million today. The average annual flood risk management benefits at East Branch are estimated at $6.5 million.
At the turn of the 20th century all of the land in and around the area was owned by the Elk Tanning Company which operated the tanneries at Wilcox and Instanter (now covered by the waters of East Branch Lake). By 1905 most of this land was striped of the valuable hemlock the buildings relocated or removed and was left as a uninhabited baron wasteland. At this time, the Elk Tanning Co. sold off vast amounts of its holdings within Elk and McKean Counties. On January 16, 1906, Mr. Frank Markert purchased three tracts of land from the Elk Tanning Co. totaling some 1433 acres of land.
Mr. Markert farmed some of this land until the U.S. Government began acquiring land for the construction of a flood control dam on the East Branch of the Clarion River as authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944. Although most of the large land owners in the area willing sold their land holdings to both the State & Federal Government, Mr. Markert did not. On May 7, 1948 the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Erie issued a Declaration of Taking for the lands required for construction of the dam and lake. The Court ordered that only the land to be flooded was allowed to be taken, leaving Mr. Markert with many acres of soon to be lake front property. The existing property line is fifty feet above the high water mark of the lake. Construction of the new lake was completed in October of 1952.
On October 16, 1952, Frank Markert began a real estate company known as “Frank Markert Inc.” with Mr. Earl Markert being named as Vice President & Secretary of the new company and began selling building lots along the shores of the new lake. The company sold building lots up to the death of Frank Markert. The company was then dissolved and the land company was taken over by Earl Markert and his wife Doris, by the will of Frank Markert. Property continued to be sold by the Markert family.
Ever since the East Branch Dam was constructed in 1948, there have been several small leaks detected near the toe of the earthen Dam. Although some repairs were completed in the late 1950’s, these leaks were persistent and, at the time no major cause for alarm. However after the colossal failure of several levies and dikes in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the USACE took a new and different approach to the inspection of other water impoundments under its jurisdiction. At that time it was realized that East Branch Dam had potentially severe issues that needed to be corrected. Then in 2008, the water levels of East Branch were lowered until repairs were made.