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Dam repairs at Rough River Lake could take years to complete

Posted on December 14, 2022

The water in Rough River Lake is at its lowest point of the season and it could end up staying that way for years to come.

Every year, the Army Corps of Engineers drains water from the lake for the winter down to what is called “winter pool” levels. It’s usually refilled during the summer months.

However, due to poor conditions of the lake’s sole dam and an ongoing project to resolve those issues, the water levels at the lake could remain extremely low until the completion of the project.

The work will take years.

“If a restriction were to be implemented, it would likely be in the eight-year time frame,” said Will Ailstock, chief of Civil Programs and Project Management for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of Engineers is considering what’s called a “pool restriction.” The restriction would lower winter and summer pools, significantly lowering the water level year round.

Depending on the results of a risk assessment to the dam, the Corps may or may not implement the pool restriction.

“The best way to reduce the risk to a structure is to reduce the amount of pressure behind that dam,” Ailstock said.

If the risk is too high, the water level won’t return to normal until the work on the dam is done.

The possibility of a pool restriction worries people like Matt Small, a local dock repair man. He understands the work needed to repair the dam but believes there are ways to avoid keeping the lake low for years.

“It definitely needs to be fixed,” Small said. “I’m just hoping they can do it in the winter time.”

Small said his business will be impacted as well as other businesses and residents in the area.

“We are focused right down here at Rough River, about a mile down from the state park, and a lot of our business, a lot of our friends, a lot of our customers that turned into friends live on Rough River,” Small said. “It would affect our business quite a bit.

“We have 2.1 million visitors a year, so it’s a big impact on the local economy, the local businesses around here, let alone the people that paid a very good price to have a lake house and there’s no lake.”

The Corps of Engineers is asking for patience until a decision is made sometime in January.


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