Lake Weyauwega could be drawn down as early as next spring after the Wisconsin Department Natural Resources approved the permit application last week for a drawdown of the lake.
“Be patient. It’s going to happen. Support is growing,” said Bob Van Epps, with Weyauwega Lake Restoration, the group that has been working on the plan for about two years.
In a Sept. 29 letter to Van Epps and Jereme Klassy of North American Hydro Inc., Scott Koehnke, water management specialist in the Department of Natural Resources’ Shawano office, said the application for a permit to draw down the lake has been reviewed and approved.
North American Hydro, in collaboration with Weyauwega Lake Restoration, applied for the permit for the drawdown of the lake.
The estimated cost of the drawdown is $68,000.
Most of that $68,000 will be to reimburse North American Hydro, of Neshkoro, for a loss of income during the drawdown.
North American Hydro generates electric power by using the dam and will have to suspend its operation during the drawdown.
In its final letter to Weyauwega Lake Restoration, the company stated that it wants to be paid $8,500 per quarter over a two-year period.
The city of Weyauwega has committed $30,000 for the drawdown project, and the lake group is raising money.
Members of the group are currently selling raffle tickets for a ceramic barbecue. The drawing is set for Feb. 14.
The lake group’s goal is to start the draw down of the lake in the spring of 2011.
“We are flexible as to what the exact date will be,” Koehnke said Friday. “We left the start date open with the idea that they want to start right after ice out.”
Typically, ice out takes place around the middle of April, he said.
A concern of DNR fisheries staff is that spring is a spawning time for walleye, sturgeon and white bass. As a result, the timing of the drawdown will be important.
“We certainly anticipate a discharge of sediment (during the drawdown),”
Koehnke said. “We will be restricting the amount of water (during the
drawdown) to four inches per day.”
He said that will, for the most part, limit the amount of sediment.
“Our goal, as much as possible, during the drawdown is to control sediment. The sediment will be there a lot in the spring anyway as the snow melts, so we want to not overload,” he said. “As a fish, it’s no different than you or I breathing smog. If sediment goes over the gills (of the fish), it become difficult for them (to breathe).”
The fish will already be expending much energy and stress as they head downstream to spawn, he said.
If the fish have already spawned, the eggs would also be breathing the sediment and could suffocate, Koehnke said.
There would be the same concern for eggs that have recently hatched.
He said they cannot what next spring will be like, which means the lake group will have to contact the DNR next spring. Water temperature and whether fish are spawning will be among the considerations for when the drawdown begins.
“We’re going to start as soon as we can, taking into consideration the fish run and weather,” Koehnke said. “We’re going to be flexible. We all agreed we will start as soon as we can.”
He said North American Hydro has its own permit process to complete because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses the dam. That means North American Hydro has to get permission to go outside of its normal operating procedure.
“From a DNR standpoint, the lake group has all their ducks in a row. From our standpoint, we’re cautiously optimistic to see this go down and to see some positive results,” Koehnke said.
He estimates that once the drawdown begins, it will take roughly 30 to 40 days for it occur. The goal then is to have it down for the entire growing season and through the winter of 2011. Then, the water would be brought up in April of 2012 at a rate of six inches per day, he said.
“It will take roughly three weeks in spring to bring it back up,” Koehnke said.
Follow-up management of the lake will be necessary.
Koehnke said the community and school district will be involved in the project and that drawdowns are being considered at other millponds in Waupaca County, including in Ogdensburg and Iola.
“There’s an opportunity for everyone to learn as opposed to drawing it down and walking away,” he said.