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The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from Atwood Lake: Why there's less lake this winter

  • Anyone who drives near the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lake knows it is drawn down during winter. This year, the Army Corps of Engineers used its dams to draw the lake down 7 feet instead of the usual  5 feet. The reason was shoreline maintenance and repair projects.

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  • If you thought you saw less of Atwood Lake lately, you were right. But you did see more of the lake’s shoreline.
    Anyone who drives near the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lake knows that the body of water annually is drawn down during winter. The lake goes down in the fall and then is filled again the next year by melting snow and seasonal rain storms in late winter and early spring.
    After all, the district’s network of lakes and reservoirs, besides providing opportunities for recreation and residency, are designed so the Army Corps of Engineers can control flooding.
    Still, this year it seemed like the lake’s level descended farther than usual.
    Indeed, late in 2011 the Corps of Engineers used its dams to draw the lake down 7 feet, said Brian Valot, co-owner of Atwood Lake Boats with Chris Valot, who noted that the usual drawdown is 5 feet. “It’s actually back up 2 feet, so it’s pretty much at normal.”
    The reason for the lower pool — or lake elevation — was shoreline maintenance and repair projects, according to district officials.
    “These were done to help stem the erosion and rebuild shoreline areas, basically to maintain the integrity of the reservoirs,” said Darrin Lautenschleger, public affairs administrator at Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District in New Philadelphia.
    Atwood’s 11 projects, estimated to cost $323,250, were among 25 projects at five lakes costing about $2 million.
    The largest of the projects was a $975,000 one at Pleasant Hill Lake to “address a severely eroded portion of shoreline,” according to the district’s website.
    Fourteen other projects were at Clendening, Piedmont and Seneca lakes. In addition, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources requested a lower than normal drawdown at Seneca Lake for repair to the Senecaville State Fish Hatchery near the dam.
    Lautenschleger said this was the second “off season” in which work has been done on shorelines at district lakes. He called it “the most ambitious set of projects since the original construction of the lakes.”
    In two years, 50 projects have been completed at a cost of more than $3 million, Lautenschleger said. Studies have identified hundreds more shoreline projects.
    “This will be part of a continuing program to maintain the shoreline of the reservoirs,” said Lautenschleger.
    The Army Corps of Engineers began drawing down lakes in Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District in November. The gradual return to summer depth began in February, according to Lautenschleger.
    “Always, the goal is to have the lakes at their summer pool level prior to the recreation season,” said Lautenschleger.
    That season soon will be upon us. Valot said that Atwood Lake Marina’s annual boat show will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 24, 25, 31, and April 1. Within weeks, docks that now are tied together and tethered in a bundle to the shore, will be taken to their useful positions at both the east and west marinas.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the meantime, those passing can get an interesting look at the low Atwood Lake. Launches end in midair. Fixed portions of docks hang feet above dry land. And long stretches of lake bottom have become shoreline — at least for those few more days before spring and summer arrive.