It is no April Fool’s Day joke.
The drawdown of Lake Weyauwega is finally coming to an end.
On Monday, April 1, the lake is scheduled to begin filling back up, said Jim Tolfa, who is vice president of Weyauwega Lake Restoration.
The lake is to be refilled at a rate of no more than six inches of water per day.
The refill is to be completed by May 1.
“Lake Weyauwega will be back,” said Scott Koehnke, who is a water management specialist in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Shawano office.
When the drawdown began on June 17, 2011, plans called for the lake to be down for a year, followed by a long-term maintenance plan.
Last summer, the decision was made to extend the drawdown until April 1.
The hope was the winter of 2012 would be colder than the winter of 2011, which would benefit the lake.
“This year, we will have a decent snow melt. There was plenty of snow this year,” Koehnke said. “We try to schedule drawdowns and fill ups based on the water body itself and the critters in there.”
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 among those which it regulates.
North American Hydro generates electric power by using the dam and had to suspend its operation during the drawdown.
Of the estimated $68,000 cost of the drawdown, most of it is to reimburse North American Hydro for its loss of income during the drawdown.
Weyauwega Lake Restoration has been raising money to cover those costs.
Once the lake is back up, assessments can begin.
“We are excited to collect data once it’s done,” Koehnke said. “We will let the system settle. After it’s back up, as we do with all projects, we will go back and reassess.”
The DNR will assess the plants, looking at whether they are natives or invasives.
“We will look at the fish. Going from the river system to the lake system, we will have different types of fish going out,” he said.
The fish currently in the river, such as bass, panfish, perch and Northern pike, will drop back into the lake, Koehnke said.
“They will have 200 more acres to play with,” he said.
When the lake is initially back up, the number of fish in it may seem low, he said.
The DNR plans to do a supplemental stocking.
Tolfa said plans call for the DNR to put 12,150 Northerns and 6,250 bass in the lake.
“We will be investigating getting some panfish,” he said.
Koehnke said they expect the fish which spawn in late spring to “pull off a hatch this year.”
In addition to the supplemental stocking, that will be another way to begin building up the fish population in the lake, he said.
The fish assessment will take place in the fall.
Next winter, the DNR will return to the lake and map out the depths of the lake, he said.
They will do the exact spots which were mapped before the drawdown.
“We will see what the depth is. We will be able to get a cross section of the lake,” Koehnke said. “We will be able to estimate the amount of material that went in the drawdown. Then we can put a dollar amount of what dredging would have cost, based on the amount of material that went.”
He said the DNR will also look at the mouths of the Wolf and Waupaca rivers to assess what impact the drawdown had there.
That information will aid in the planning of future work, he said.
“All these assessments we will be doing annually for the next four to six years,” Koehnke said. “The goal isn’t to draw this down and walk away. The goal is to make management decisions based on what the lake is telling us. From a DNR standpoint, a lot of work will take place in late summer and fall.”
Historically, the DNR did not stay on top of what happened after drawdowns were complete, he said.
“I think that is one of the changes you are seeing. It is monitoring, listening, recognizing that it is river system that wants to remain a river,” Koehnke said.
He said area residents need to be patient.
“We will have to talk to people. We will have to watch and listen and pay attention,” Koehnke said.
North American Hydro will be working with Weyauwega Lake Restoration to address any weeds or chunks of wood which float into the grates as the lake is refilled, he said.
“You can’t formulate an opinion based on when the water comes out. We will have to process it as it goes and watch,” Koehnke said.
Future partial drawdowns will be based on what the lake is telling them, he said.
“If she’s happy, we don’t have to do things. We just have to stay ahead of it,” Koehnke said.