As many of you have noticed, our water levels are unseasonably low. We are urging you to use caution when boating this holiday weekend, especially when navigating the channel or river. We have had reports of boaters striking bottom and getting stuck even within marked navigational lanes.
SAWM is well aware of your concerns and are working with our DNR representatives to achieve a quick resolution. The lower levels are the result of a water level complaint that was made in 2015 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency responsible for regulating the Shawano dam. As a result of that complaint, FERC mandated that the target water level at the Shawano dam be reduced by almost five inches. SAWM immediately initiated a collaborative effort with the dam operator (Eagle Creek), the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Working together we were able to get FERC to agree to allow the dam to temporarily raise the target water level back to the previous higher level. This ‘temporary variance’ was granted in September 2015 with the condition that SAWM undertake a water level study during 2016 and 2017 and submit a report to FERC analyzing the results in early 2018.
SAWM spent over twenty thousands dollars on the required study and submitted the report to FERC earlier this year. The hydrologist who prepared the report for SAWM confirmed that the dam could safely and consistently operate at the higher elevation levels we are accustomed to. In addition, in 2016 Eagle Creek invested significant money in automating the water flow gates on the dam. This automation has greatly improved Eagle Creek’s ability to quickly react to changing water levels to minimize fluctuations in the water level on Shawano Lake and ensure compliance with the FERC mandated water level targets.
On May 11, 2018, FERC confirmed they received our report and were waiting for DNR comment (for a copy of the FERC letter click here). In addition, they reminded the dam operators (Eagle Creek) that they are not to operate over the authorized target elevation, stating that they cannot implement any temporary or permanent change from the authorized level without prior approval from the commission. In other words, the two-year temporary variance they had granted in 2015 had expired and Eagle Creek subsequently had to adjust the head flow water levels to the lower target level during the week of May 14. This has resulted in the low water levels we are now experiencing.
We have received many calls and emails from our members expressing concerns about the low water level. We appreciate your feedback and have forwarded the emails on to our DNR contacts in hopes of either expediting the permanent approval of the higher target water level or receiving another temporary variance. We share your sense of urgency regarding this matter and are working diligently to have it resolved as soon as possible.
We will provide more detail when it is available and encourage you to attend our annual member meeting this coming Saturday for additional updates. The meeting is at 9:00amat The Main Event in Cecil.
Thank you for supporting SAWM!