The status of the drawdown of Lake Weyauwega will be the subject of a July 12 meeting.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 12, in the lower level meeting room of the Weyauwega Public Library.
During the meeting, which is open to the public, Weyauwega Lake Restoration will discuss the effects of the current drawdown and the possibility of extending it until April 1, 2013.
Lake and river residents, as well as the general public, are invited.
"The longer the system is left to be natural and flow through, the better it’s going to be. I told the lake association the permit is until the fall. On Sept. 1, we’re supposed to start bringing it back up. If they decide they want to keep it down until next spring, they would need to amend the permit. Then there would be the opportunity for a deep frost.
"We told them it is completely up to them and that we would support them either way," 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.
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.
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.
Bob Van Epps, a member of Weyauwega Lake Restoration, met with North American Hydro on June 19 to discuss the possibility of keeping the lake down until April 1.
If Lake Weyauwega is kept down until next spring, the lake group will need to find out North American Hydro’s loss of income for that period of time.
Weyauwega Lake Restoration raises funds in various ways, including through raffles. The drawing for the latest raffle will be on on Sunday, Aug. 12.
A total of 500 tickets are being sold, with the top prize being $10,000, Van Epps said.
"We’re hoping the raffle will be a success," he said. "Tickets are still available."
As the lake group works to raise funds, DNR officials watch what is happening in the lake.
Last month, Koehnke was joined by Al Niebur and Ted Johnson in taking a canoe ride through the area to get an idea of how the drawdown is progressing. They went from Reek Road to River Road.
"Dirty water is coming in at or above Reek Road," Koehnke said. "The water coming into the millpoind is also dirty."
He said the river has done an excellent job of cutting channels and that downstream of the dam, they noticed nice sandbars and quiet bays.
Koehnke heard some property owners were concerned about the water quality. "One thing that was critical," he said, "is everything in the middle of the channel, where the river is flowing, everything was clean."
The river is recreating what it is supposed to be, he said.
Dirty water continues to go downstream as material flushes through the system.
"There’s lots of flowering rush out there. It’s an invasive species," Koehnke said.
The likelihood, he explained, is that the plant was always there.
"It didn’t just come in overnight. It’s always been there," he said. "It shifted from an aquatic to a wetland. It is holding sediment in place."
The DNR officials believe that once the water is back up, the plant will return to being aquatic.
"It’s not feasible or cost effective to treat," Koehnke said. "There are probably 150 acres of flowering rush. It’s everywhere."
He said that overall, he pleasantly surprised by what they saw downstream.
"I understand the concerns about water clarity. You have to have sediment and nutrient being carried downstream. The opening of the dam has allowed the process which hadn’t been able to happen since the last time (the lake was down)," Koehnke said.
Koehnke and Johnson also went out last fall to see how things were progressing.
During their most recent visit, they noticed more compaction and multiple channels going through the lake, which is why there is so much sediment going through, Koehnke said.
With last winter being a warm one with not a lot of snowfall, they did not get the frost penetration on the lake they wanted, which is why there is now consideration to keep the lake down through another winter.
This summer’s heat is definitely maximizing the compaction benefit, though, he said.
During their canoe trip, they saw fish and turtles, and Koehnke asks people to be patient during this process.
"Every season is going to change. You’re going to have positive things and negative things that happen with each change," he said. "There is a lag time between major events. The system has to find its equilibrium again."
People should not rush to make judgments.
"Right now, things look very good," Koehnke said. "We are still in the middle of it. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to see some good results out of it."
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