Low Lake Levels Addressed

CELINA — A lake official stressed the low lake level is not coordinated with the pilot study that was done earlier this year.

Milt Miller with the Grand Lake Restoration Commission noted the low lake level is in no relation to the spring drawdown when he gave his report to Lake Improvement Association members during their monthly meeting on Saturday.

“As you all remember when we came out with our strategic plan and lake initiatives that we wanted to implement that we felt very strongly based on science what would help our lake long-term, one of those was lake level management,” Miller said.

He noted he has received numerous calls about the lake level.

“Our pilot started in February with meetings, and I’m going to tell you the early drawdown to the lake had no impact on where we are today,” he said. “In spite of what a lot of people feel, it had no bearing. Because what you’ve got to remember is, the spillway was designed and built as a self-regulating device. So had we not done our pilot study, the notch still would have flowed fully until normal pool. One thing that Brian Miller and all his predecessors will tell you, in spite of the best science, in spite of the best effort, you can’t control Mother Nature, and folks we are in a drought, a significant drought, and we haven’t had rain. And that ultimately is the bottom line.”

Miller noted the lake was built as a reservoir — the water flows in and is stored and released in a controlled manner, the water just sets and the primary exit is the spillway — and that is the way the engineers involved in the study look at the lake.

“They approached their scientific analysis much that the same way,” he said. “Also, what we really wanted to explore — not anticipating a drought year — was inspecting the two tubes that are located at the spillway ... They had never really been tested or been fully opened as a controlled mechanism.”

When the study began in the first week of March, the water was at 11 inches over normal pool, Miller said.

“What happens is, if you have no retention or storage capacity, when you do in a normal year, when you do get rains, then you have flooding, you have shoreline damage, keep in mind you have to drain all the tributaries before you can have any impact on the lake. It’s far more than we give it credit for,” he said, noting they began the process and there were some concerns from the engineering out of Columbus because the tubes hadn’t been tested. “We wanted to take it up to gradual stages and measure the impact downriver ... We had elevation sites that we monitored very closely in a dozen different places.”

He noted the concerns, because it is a basic design, they were worried about the vibrations of the board as the water flowed under it, but, Miller noted, it worked “beautifully.”

“First we opened it up 40 inches, measured those results, and then eventually we opened up the whole 60 inches,” he said.  

“I will tell you in combination with the notch-flowing pole, we shut it down at normal pool on March 20. So in three weeks, we took it down 11 inches ... Our intent — was when we hit normal pool, we stopped, all studies stopped because that’s where the lake’s supposed to be.”

By bringing the water down this spring, Miller said it helped prevent the flooding, but he stressed they did return the lake to its normal level, which it would’ve met anyway.

“With this drought, there are people who are trying to make the correlation with the spring drawdown and the level of the lake today,” he said.

Right now, he noted the lake is at 11 inches below normal pool.

He said, if the water level returns to normal this fall, they may continue their study, with their eventual goal finding out the capacity of the two tubes for the possibility of opening up the tubes to create room to prevent flooding.

“The engineers said had we not done anything, the lake level would’ve been at normal pool in mid-April rather than the end of March,” Miller stressed.

In other business, LIA members:

• Had a moment of silence for James Price.

• Heard committee reports, noting the Windy Point renovation is finished and showcasing the sign that will be located at Windy Point, noting the Bar Stool Open will be Aug. 11 and the Kids Fishing Derby will be Sept. 12.

• Approved and accepted the bylaws.

• Heard from Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Brian Miller about the storm cleanup and the dredge report. He noted the lake festival will be from July 27 to 29, and he reminded boaters to boat smart.

The next meeting of the Lake Improvement Association will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 4 at the Celina Moose.