The job of watching over the control structure in Syracuse, more commonly known as the Syracuse dam, was explained by Chad Jonsson, superintendent of Syracuse-Wawasee Parks Department. Jonsson explained the operations at the annual Wawasee Property Owners Association public board meeting Saturday morning.
The meeting was held in the Oakwood Hotel, Syracuse.
A letter from 1990 to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water, requesting information regarding the control structure and legally established normal water level of Lake Wawasee, was made available. Also available was a copy of an agreement between the Town of Syracuse and the DNR establishing the ownership of the structure signed in 1992. This document established the town has the sole responsibility for the maintenance and repair and maintaining the legal level of Syracuse Lake.
It was noted later in the meeting town council minutes show the town took ownership of the dam in 1963 according to an individual present. However, the 1992 document shows the official proof stating the town is to maintain, repair and control the dam, but must receive written approval before any non-routine maintenance on the properties adjacent. The document also requires the town to maintain the level of the lake.
The legal limits cited in both of these documents is 858.87 feet, MSL, or 8.87 feet on the staff gauge for both lakes.“Essentially if it is below, we do very little because we can’t put water in,” he stated. Jonsson noted when the “rain came we let water out. It was not a big deal. The last two years we’ve had a completely different situation.” Normally the gates are closed in preparation for the spring run off and open the gates to lower the level in mid-May.
“In 2012 we closed it at lake level on St. Patrick’s Day, two months behind, going into the summer of 2012 in terms of where we were water wise and we kept it closed all the way through essentially April of this year when we were back to water level,” stated Jonsson. After the excessive rain in a week, bringing the water level way up, “we let the water out, trying not to push water down stream to cause problems below the dam or water control structure.”
Jonsson noted Turkey Creek is filled to capacity using a bridge 250 yards below the control structure as a guide, so as to not flood that structure. “We are filling the water to the capacity of that drain, when we go to dump as fast as we can.”
Jonsson stated the level as back to normal two weeks ago, until rainfall last week, which brought the water level back up. “I’m trying to hold water at the request of a variety of many organizations based on fear of what happened last year. So we have been above (legal limit). We’ve been closing an inch to 1½ inches above just so there’s that little extra cushion.
“Yesterday morning we were about 3 inches high,” he reported noting after opening the two gates a total of 30 inches, 24 inches on one side, 6 inches on the other with water going over the spill way. The gates were lowered around 5 p.m. Friday to 18 inches. The level had dropped by 8:45 a.m. Saturday to a little more than 2 inches to 2¼ inches above the top of the spillway. “Just a little playing with the gates can bring the water up or down, based on how much we’re letting out of the gates.”
The structure has two manually operated gates, which operate independently of each other as well as the spillway. There is no electricity to the structure.
Jonsson stated he is working with the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation on installing a gauge at the spillway. “I was told the top of the spillway was at water level, the state level. In doing more research over the last two years, it appears the state level may be an inch above the spillway.” While no one is sure the level of the spillway, the gauge will give an official level.
Among the questions raised by those present included the affect of the aerator in the pond area northeast of the control structure on the flow rate when the structure is open, does using lake water for sprinkling affect the level, and is there daily monitoring. The integrity of the structure was also questioned.
Jonsson pointed out the aerator was installed as a decorative piece and to keep the water in that pond area from becoming stagnant when no water is flowing over the spillway. As for the lake level in relation to being used for sprinkling, he commented he has not done any research.
It was noted daily monitoring does not take place until its believed it should be checked, possibly once a week. However, when the water level is high it is checked twice a day. “In terms of a normal day during the summertime, in July, I may stop once a week to make sure everything is still there. We don’t check if we’re not leaving out water.” He did note since 2009, a daily record is kept documenting actions taken. It was suggested Dr. Nate Bosch, Kosciusko Lakes and Streams, have access to that documentation as he is studying the inflow and outflow of the lake’s water levels.
Jonsson stated an engineering study in 2009 showed no water seeping around the structure itself and the structure itself is in “relatively good shape.” He stated there is concern regarding the retention wall in the pond area above the structure and below. “With the right type of rodents it could cause problems. It’s something we are going to have to look at.” There are signs of the seawall rusting out as holes have developed.
“The concern is eventually water will be seeping (through the designating material) potentially circumventing the control structure.”
Kay Young, WPOA president, noted during the last two to three years there has been discussion with the town and Jonsson on that matter. “Syracuse Lake Association, WPOA, WACF, are all going to need to get together and focus on what’s going to happen in the next few years with the dam. It will be an ongoing project obviously. Everyone is aware there is need for repairs. We are going to get a committee together and really watch what’s going on, get an idea of the cost to do those kinds of things.” She noted among the decisions is whether the town will pay for the repairs, if there will be grants and so forth.
During the business meeting Young stated pleasure at being at the new Oakwood. Jane Finch gave an update on the latest information from Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, based on information in the organization’s newsletter and Janet Hartley, secretary reported there are 1,079 paid members at this point with 1,014 unpaid but membership continues to come in.
Additionally the WPOA/Syracuse Lake Association annual breakfast at Oakwood, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. June 22 was noted.