Sunday, June 21, 2009

Water Levels

Who controls area lake levels?

Lake water from several area lakes, including Squaw Lake and Lake Ponemah, flow through the Linden millpond and dam. The Genesee County Drain Commission monitors a digital system, which maintains a level between 868-870 feet above sea level for Squaw and Ponemah.

Silver Lake reaches highest mark in 30 years

By Sharon Stone--TCTimes--TriCounty Times--Fenton news and information
Published: Friday, June 19, 2009 6:17 AM EDT
Michigan has more than 36,000 miles of streams, and more than 11,000 lakes and ponds, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In the tri-county area, there are more than 40 lakes.

 Though levels are slowly getting back to what is generally expected, Keith Miller said the level of Silver Lake reached its highest point, in the 30 years he has lived there. As a member of the Silver & Marl Lakes Area Homeowners Association, Miller constantly monitors the lakes.

  Tom Murphy, president of the Silver/Marl lake association, said inflow to the lakes occurs by direct rainfall and a couple of small creeks, as well as natural groundwater springs. Outflow from the lakes generally takes place from surface evaporation and through the culverts (weir), which connect under Owen and Silver Lake roads, flowing into and through Lake Ponemah and eventually into the Shiawassee River system.

  The culvert from Silver Lake into Lake Ponemah runs beneath Silver Lake Road. Miller said that sediment, debris, gradually builds up inside the culvert, and the city of Fenton’s Department of Public Works is responsible for keeping it clear, due to the location. Any blockage would directly affect the level of Silver and Marl lakes.

  Murphy said there is a range of about 18 inches, from the very low to very high levels. From hydrological studies he has read, there is an approximate 18-year cycle of “highs” and “lows” in the Great Lakes region. The lakes would peak, gradually decline to a low nine years later, and then creep back up to the high level in another nine years.

 “The Great Lakes basin has a seasonal pattern,” Murphy said.

 Murphy said for this year they haven’t had any actual flooding, but about half dozen properties that sit low have been soggy.

  Crane and Loon lakes drain into Squaw Lake. Squaw, Ponemah and Tupper lakes drain into the Shiawassee River and flow through the Linden millpond and dam. The dam in downtown Linden is monitored to keep lake levels within the approved levels. The Genesee County Drain Commission is responsible for monitoring the dam and making adjustments.

  Jim Gerth, surface water director for the Genesee County Drain Commission said that the dam in Linden is the only adjustable one with which the drain commission is involved. He said the drain commission monitors the level at the millpond with electronic controls. They had an analog system in the ‘80s, and a few years ago installed a digital system.

 The Linden dam is checked hourly, and adjustments, if necessary, are made every three hours. The system can be monitored from the drain commission offices and from a laptop computer of the assigned on-call worker.

 “Lakes in general are high,” said Gerth. He said with the wet fall, nearly record snowfall during the winter and a cold and wet spring, all of the lakes are high.

 In addition to the Linden dam, other lakes rely on weirs that the drain commission installed and monitors to keep lake levels within the range set by the Inland Lake Level Act. Gerth said the Drain Commission follows part 307 of Act 451 of 1994.

 For Lake Fenton, Gerth said the lake level is adjusted by two weirs — one off Swanee Beach, the other off Crane Road. Lake Fenton is about 8 to 12 inches, above normal. The biggest issue he has seen with this level is water over seawalls and problems with docks. He added that the drain commission has also been dealing with some beavers that have decided to build their home where water needs to be flowing.

 With Ponemah, Squaw, Tupper lakes and the Linden millpond, Gerth said it could take five to seven days for lake levels to peak from a widespread watershed rainfall. It could take up to two weeks for the level to recede. These three lakes are monitored to maintain a range of 868 to 870 feet above sea level, said Gerth.

  These services of the drain commission are funded by special assessment districts, which were petitioned and approved by local taxpayers. This option is available to other lakefront property owners also as long as more than one-half of the property owners pursue it.

  Temperatures and wind speed greatly affect lake levels, said Gerth. A lake could lose up to 2 to 3 inches of rain from evaporation on a hot day that is accompanied by low humidity and high winds. In most cases, this water would be replaced with inflows and springs. He said that oftentimes residents complain of this problem in August when the higher lake levels are desired.

 The Oakland County Drain Commission monitors the lake level of Bush Lake in Holly. Residents debated the level for years, and in June of 2006, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge ruled that the lake level, which is controlled by a weir, would be set at 913.l6 feet above sea level.

 George Dyball, president of the Lake Fenton Property Owners Association, said in the association’s 2009 newsletter that lake levels are at their highest he has seen in 15 years. The Swanee Beach Drive weir has been tampered with, which altered the flow of water. He said it is against the law for anyone to tamper with or alter the weir’s intended purpose.

  Dyball said the Crane Road weir has also become clogged and constricted from heavy vehicle traffic. To his understanding, the township and drain commission intend to replace the weir.

 Argentine Township Trustee Tom Hallman, who has a home on Lobdell Lake said, “We control the lake level at the dam next to the Argentine Township Hall.

  “We have a dam operator that checks the lake level, daily.” Because of this practice, they do not have issues with the lake level. He added that the lakes are downstream from Lake Shannon, and Lake Shannon is downstream from Parshallville.

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