Manitowish Waters — the fall draw down — the when and the why
September 20, 2019
To the Editor:
The water level in the Chain above the dam will likely decrease from its current level and reach 8 feet, 0 inches sometime shortly before Oct. 1.
Then beginning on Oct. 1, the level will be drawn down from 8 feet, 0 inches to reach the final winter level on or before Oct. 31.
The operation of the Rest Lake Dam is guided by the Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.), a document that was signed in April of 2016 by the Chippewa-Flambeau Improvement Company (Xcel Energy) and the State of Wisconsin. This agreement does not replace the work order that was signed in the 1930s, but adds more detail to it. It is a step in the process that attempts to provide some compromises relative to upstream (above the dam) and downstream (below the dam) interests. It also attempts to keep in mind ecological needs and navigational needs both above and below the dam.
To understand the timing of the fall draw down, it is helpful to understand the way the dam is operated in summer. The summer level of the Chain above the dam is actually a range rather than a single specified level. That summer range is 8 feet, 0 inches to 8 feet, 6 inches. The Chain has been 8 feet, 3 inches or greater much of the summer. It is also helpful to remember that September is considered part of the summer relative to the M.O.U.
In later September, Xcel energy decreases the level of the water above the dam and increases the flow of water below the dam to be at or near 8 feet, 0 inches by Oct. 1. Per dam records, this occurred between Sept. 28 and Sept. 30 in 2016; between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30 in 2017; and on Sept. 28, 2018 the level of the water above the dam was 8 feet, 2 inches.
Beginning Oct. 1, the water level is drawn down to reach the winter level by Oct. 31, the date specified in the M.O.U. This operation of the dam in September and October allows the owners of the dam to accomplish a difficult task, to drop 3 feet, 6 inches of water over more than 4,000 acres of lakes and channels by Oct. 31.
Hopefully, this information will be helpful for those who need to keep in mind when they can expect to see some drop of water level above the dam and an increase in water below the dam and plan accordingly.
Manitowish Waters Lakes
Association Board of Directors