The drawdown of Lake Weyauwega may be extended until next spring.
A July 12 informational meeting ended with the majority of those in attendance voting in favor of extending the drawdown to May 1, 2012.
The drawdown was scheduled to end on Sept. 23.
A handful of people left the meeting before the vote occurred. Of those who remained after two hours of discussion, 23 people voted in favor of an extension, while four opposed the idea.
“If we fill it back up in September, did we accomplish what we wanted to do? Would we have the same problem we had before we drew it down?” asked Howard Quimby, a member of the Weyauwega Lake Restoration board of directors.
The drawdown of the lake began on June 17, 2011, with the plan calling for the lake to be down until this September, followed by a long-term maintenance plan.
North American Hydro, of Neshkoro, in collaboration with Weyauwega Lake Restoration, applied for the permit for the drawdown.
The permit was approved by the DNR and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC regulates hydro dams across the country, and the Weyauwega dam is one of them that it regulates.
North American Hydro generates electric power by using the dam and had to suspend its operation during the drawdown.
When asked after the meeting what will happen next, Jereme Klassy, of North American Hydro, said, “We will facilitate the request for the lake association. We will need comments from the agencies. We will help facilitate the federal process to make it happen.”
During the meeting, he said that he does not think FERC will oppose the extension if the involved agencies say it is the right thing to do.
The estimated cost of the drawdown is $68,000, with most of that being to reimburse North American Hydro for its loss of income during the drawdown.
Keeping the lake down another nine months is estimated to cost an additional $30,000 to $45,000.
Weyauwega Lake Restoration is raising money to cover the costs.
Ted Johnson, a water resource specialist in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, also attended the July 12 meeting.
He said the plants now seen in the lake will aid in improving the lake’s depth.
“Every plant has a niche,” he said. “When you refill, there will be some green out there, but most of the plants won’t survive long.”
In regard to concerns about the amount of flowering rush on the lake, Johnson said he believes that when the lake is refilled, the invasive plant will be shaded out over time.
Kaycie Stushek, an invasive species specialist with the Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council, said her organization will assist in training local residents about how to identify and monitor invasive species.
“When you bring the water back up, it won’t be the kind of habitat it (flowering rush) wants,” she said. “Otherwise, it would have been prevalent before. I wouldn’t waste the money on trying to treat it right now.”
Ron Wiesman is also a member of the lake group’s board of directors.
“I feel putting it off is the best thing. I live on the lake. Nothing would be better than to bring it back up, but I don’t want to be selfish,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it is for our kids and grandkids, to do what is best long term.”
He sympathizes with those who live downstream and said they will not put the water back up and walk away from it.
Bill Zemple is also on the board and remembers how clear Lake Weyauwega once was.
“It’s not just about the lake – it’s about the watershed,” he said. “We’re trying to benefit everybody, not just certain people.”
“As inconvenient as it is now, you have to look at the long term,” said Doug Nelson of Nelson Environmental.
Several people said the muck they are seeing in the river does not look like sand.
Some who live downstream said they have seen fish, turtles and a dog get stuck in the muck.
Nelson said this is sediment that built up behind the dam over the last 125 years moving through the water system.
The sediment will not flush through the system overnight, he said.
“You will end up with a healthier river than you had. It will take several years,” Nelson said.
He told those who live downstream of the dam that he has seen their situation before.
“I can assure you. It is not long term,” Nelson said. “It will take a couple years. Ultimately, what you will see will be not only a healthier millpond but a healthier downstream.”
Tom O’Day has property along the Waupaca River and said, “I am not happy with my river frontage now. It’s cutting in some places, but some neighbors have lost access to the river. I’ll be patient as far as my property is concerned. How are you going to make these people whole, to return to what they had before the project started?”
He believes in doing the project right.
“I’ll suffer a little longer, but I don’t want to see my neighbors suffer,” O’Day said.