MONTICELLO — Water levels continue to drop on Lake Freeman, prompting NIPSCO to elevate its Abnormal River Condition (ARC) from a watch to a warning.
The Shafer Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corp., in a press release issued Sept. 10, said surface elevation levels measured at the Oakdale Dam have gone below the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) required minimum operating level of 610.10 feet. The normal operating level is 610.35 feet.
As of noon Sept. 15, the surface elevation taken near the face of the Oakdale Hydroelectric Dam was measured at 609.08 feet, which is below the normal operating target.
The SFLECC newsletter states the change in surface elevation measured at the hydro does not reflect or equate to the same potential change in depth for other areas of the lake.
Surface elevation is the relative measurement to sea level. A change of .01 feet in the surface elevation equates to 1/100th of a foot, or .12 inches. NIPSCO does not measure average depths.
The 24-hour daily average for flow is currently 417 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Buffalo US Geological Survey gauge, and 282 cfs at the USGS Winamac gauge.
An ARC event will be lifted once the 24-hour average rises above 410 cfs at Buffalo and above 300 cfs at Winamac.
SFLECC advises that lakeside residents, boat operators, swimmers and tubers to watch for submerged objects in or under the water’s surface. Due to lowering water levels, objects such as tree stumps, old dock pilings, etc., may start to show or become a hazard.
NIPSCO officials said in a press release Friday that without additional rainfall, depths could continue to fall.
On Sept. 3, an advisory was issued about the possibility of declining water levels. On Sept. 8, the advisory was upgraded to watch status.
The flows are regulated due to the discovery of endangered mussels downstream from the Oakdale Dam in the early 2010s. Because of that, water must be released from Lake Freeman and, at times, Lake Shafer to help keep them alive during times of drought or considerable lack of rainfall.