Lake water level not critical…yet
LAKE AREA – Buckeye Lake boaters should exercise caution not to run aground, but the lake’s low water level shouldn’t discourage people from boating for now, said Buckeye Lake Marina owner and Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow president Dave Levacy.
“It’s not critical yet,” he said, although if the area doesn’t receive significant rainfall in the next few weeks, it may be. Levacy said he’s only seen one boat with impact damage from striking something beneath the surface, and he hasn’t sold significantly more prop blades since the water level dropped more than a foot below full pool. He said boat damaged was in a area notorious for such damage, even when the water is at a normal level. “I’ve seen it this low before,” he said.
District State Park Manager Hal Harper said he checked with his staff and the Ohio Division of Watercraft about rumors that numerous boats – one said 76 boats – needed to be towed to deeper water after running aground last weekend. Neither Park nor Watercraft officers were aware of ANY reports of a boats running aground or needing towed as a result of the low water level over last weekend.
“We have no means of adding water to the lake but it certainly adds credibility to the folks that are advocating for not using the lake water for irrigating lawns and gardens,” he said. Harper said as of Monday, the lake level according to the USGS monitoring equipment was 890.82 with summer pool being 891.88, which puts the level down 1.06 feet (1 foot and about 3/4 of an inch).
Levacy said in his opinion the main body of the lake is fine for boating, although there are areas on the east and south ends that are shallow.
Harper said dissolved oxygen levels in the lake have fallen, which explains reports of dead fish.
Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow watershed coordinator Merv Bartholow said based on readings from the continuous monitoring equipment installed by Ohio EPA this spring, it is understandable by some fish are dying.
“There are several factors, but the primary one is the low level of dissolved oxygen (or DO) in the water,” he said. The equipment is monitoring the lake 18 inches below the surface as well as 18 inches from the lake bottom. Bartholow said the level of DO close to the surface has remained fairly constant and at acceptable levels during this recent hot spell, however, the DO level near the bottom has decreased significantly. He said as of Tuesday, the DO level in the bottom of the lake was 8.8 and the level at the top was 193. “Without sufficient oxygen, the fish are unable to breathe and subsequently die,” said Bartholow.
Another contributing factor is the temperature of the water, said Bartholow. As of Tuesday, the surface temperature was nearly 85 degrees and the temp at the bottom of the lake was nearly 81 degrees. The lake has been above 80 degrees for more than 60 days now.
Finally, the lower lake level contributes to fish kills. Bartholow agrees that the lake is currently down 12 inches from normal summer pool levels, placing it 18 inches below a true full pool at the top edge of the Sellers Point Spillway.
“On the good news side, however, the toxin levels (from algae) in the lake this year have consistently been below the levels recorded last year,” said Bartholow. The average through the month of July 2011 was 2.305 parts per billion, or ppb, and the average through July of this year was 1.478 ppb. For comparison, the level found acceptable for drinking water is 1 ppb and the standard adopted by the State of Ohio for safe recreating is 6 ppb.
Levacy suggested that residents who use aerators to protect their docks from ice during the winter turn them on now to help add oxygen to the lake.