The delay in the drawdown of Lake Weyauwega will not affect how long the lake is down.
“The only thing we’re waiting for is for FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to say it’s OK to operate out of the normal operating procedures,” said Scott Koehnke, who is a water management specialist in the Department of Natural Resources’ Shawano office. “Why it’s taking this long, I really don’t know.”
Plans called for the drawdown to begin in April and for the lake to then be down until next April.
North American Hydro, in collaboration with Weyauwega Lake Restoration, applied for a permit for the drawdown of the lake.
The DNR approved the application last fall, and the lake group is waiting for FERC to also approve the permit.
FERC regulates hydro dams across the country, and the Weyauwega dam is one of them that it regulates, Koehnke said.
“FERC gave a license to North American Hydro for the operation of the dam. If they are operating anything outside of what the license is for, they have to get permission to operate out of normal business,” he said.
A drawdown of the lake would be outside of that, which is why the lakes group is waiting for FERC to weigh in on the permit.
The lakes group has been working on this plan for more than two years.
“I think they got the request in to FERC in March. It’s supposed to take 30 days to review,” Koehnke said. “I know the Weyauwega group sent a letter to FERC, asking for a speedy review.”
It was in 1996 that FERC issued a 30-year license to North American Hydro for the operation of the dam in Weyauwega.
While Weyauwega Lake Restoration waits to hear from FERC, the group wondered if the delay in the drawdown will affect the plan or if it should be delayed until next year.
“It’s not gong to be a failure because of the fact that it’s starting later. There’s definitely going to be major benefits,” Koehnke said.
He told the group that regardless of when the drawdown begins, the lake will be down for a year and the cost will be the same.
The estimated cost of the drawdown is $68,000. Most of that cost 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.
The city of Weyauwega has committed $30,000 for the drawdown project, and the lake group has held fundraisers to help cover the cost.
Koehnke said that if the drawdown takes place this month, the lake will be kept down until July or August 2012. If the drawdown is delayed further – until July or August – the lake will be down until the fall of 2012.
He said the drawdown can be extended on the back end and that the lake would still be down during a growing season.
“We’re just waiting on FERC,” Koehnke said. “I’m assuming I will get a phone call from the lake group when they hear from FERC.”