Shawano Lake open for summer after feds agree to raise lake levels

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SHAWANO, Wis. (WBAY) -- UPDATE 6/26:

Shawano Lake is open for the summer after the federal government agreed to raise lake levels.

State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a temporary order Wednesday to raise the lake back to "the historic 30-year lake level" starting immediately. The order will last through the summer.

Last year we reported how the low water level on Shawano Lake impacted recreational activities before the FERC agreed to raise the water level just in time for the 4th of July (see related story).

To make sure a request to raise the level doesn't have to happen every year, a permanent request is also being sought by Eagle Creek Dam, which controls the level of the lake and the Wolf River.

The Wisconsin DNR submitted a letter to FERC agreeing with the dam's request to keep the water level of 802.9 feet mean sea level in the summer months each year and lowering the water to 802.5 feet mean sea level in the fall through the spring.

As a condition, a three year study would be conducted to see how the water level impacts wildlife

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INITIAL STORY:

People living around Shawano Lake are experiencing a bit of deja vu.

Last year we reported how the low water level on Shawano Lake impacted recreational activities before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) agreed to raise the water level just in time for the 4th of July (see related story).

But that same commission is taking its time on this year's approval which is submitted by Eagle Creek Dam.

"This last week people are asking what's going on again,” said Jeff Stachowiak, manager of the Bamboo Bar on Shawano Lake. He says shallow waters on the lake are once again impacting business.

“Last year it really destroyed business in the beginning until it brought the lake levels back up. A lot of complaints, had people calling from Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Kenosha asking me what's going on with the lake because they don't want to come up,” said Stachowiak,

The Shawano Area Waterways Management (SWAM) organization is once again waiting for FERC to approve bringing the water level back up 4 to 5 inches to where it’s been historically. But just a little more than a week out from the Fourth of July, there’s still no decision.

“With a busy Fourth of July weekend not too far off, it's a very important issue to us. We're just afraid there's going to be an accident and someone is going to get hurt,” said Tim Day, Vice President of SWAM.

To make sure a request to raise the level doesn't have to happen every year, a permanent request is also being sought by Eagle Creek Dam, which controls the level of the lake and the Wolf River.

The Wisconsin DNR submitted a letter to FERC agreeing with the dam's request to keep the water level of 802.9 feet mean sea level in the summer months each year and lowering the water to 802.5 feet mean sea level in the fall through the spring.

As a condition, a three year study would be conducted to see how the water level impacts wildlife.

“What we would do is work with the DNR and a couple of the fish organizations, Walleyes for Tomorrow and Sturgeons for Tomorrow, to study the impact the lower water levels would have on the Wolf River below the dam to see if it negatively impacted the spring spawning,” said Day.

The findings would then be presented to FERC.

If a decision from the federal commission is not made soon, a typically busy Fourth of July week could be a wash.

“Even if they said today, 'OK, you can go to the higher target level;' it doesn’t mean that the lake is five inches higher tomorrow,” said Day.

"It takes a while for that water level to increase because Shawano Lake is over 6,000 acres. We're talking millions and millions of gallons of water that have to be filtered in there to raise the water level even an inch. So time is important here.”

Read the original version of this article at www.wbay.com.