The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has put a hold on plans to lower Lake Neshonoc in West Salem after expressing concerns with a plan to repair the Neshonoc Dam’s damaged flashboards.
“We have been ordered to put the lake back at its previous levels and stop the drawdown,” backup dam operator Teresa Schnitzler said.
Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, which owns the dam, had begun lowering the lake level last Tuesday and had planned to lower the lake six inches per day until the water level had been reduced by three feet.
Neshonoc Lake District Chairman Jim Leicht had said the decision to lower the level of the lake was made to allow repairs to be carried out.
The flashboards, which are designed to keep the lake level approximately three feet higher to improve the output of the generators at the hydroelectric plant were damaged during flooding in July and were scheduled to be replaced this winter.
Eagle Creek Dam Manager Scott Purlee said they had been given the go-ahead to begin the drawdown of the lake but the DNR then requested a temporary halt, citing concerns from DNR water regulations officials.
DNR Water Regulations Engineer Mike Rogney said initially they had approved the draw down believing it was a dam safety concern, but called it off after learning the issue was related to the dam’s hydroelectric generation.
“We don’t recommend draw downs in the winter because you have herptiles exposed,” he said. “We recommend waiting through the winter.”
Rogney said the DNR is waiting for clarification from the FERC before making a recommendation.
Purlee said, “It’s not uncommon for agencies to have to have different views.”
He expects to resume the draw down of the lake later this week but said if the DNR or the FERC asks to postpone the repairs again they will resume in the spring.