TYGART LAKE—Last week it was reported that the United State Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Pittsburgh had agreed to a plan of operational flexibility that would help keep the water levels of the lake higher longer into the fall, and while they are still hoping to carry out their plan, it is possible that this summer might not see an extended boating season.
According to Lenna Hawkins, Deputy District Engineer of the Pittsburgh District USACE, the plan was contingent on certain pieces of information being presented in a timely manner to the Corps, and they are still awaiting those figures.
“While we are committed to employing operational flexibility this year at Tygart Lake, there are certain factors that must be looked into, and numbers must be plugged in to the equation,” said Hawkins. “There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, but this is a nice partnership we are trying to forge.”
Many residents know Tygart Lake as a hot spot in the summertime, that affords residents and guests with many outdoor recreational opportunities, but few may know that the intended purpose of the lake is not recreation.
“Tygart Lake is not technically a lake, it is a reservoir,” revealed Hawkins. “The purpose of the ‘lake’ is for adequate water supply for navigation on the Monongahela River. We are required to keep a nine-foot draft depth to allow for proper and safe travel on the waterway.”
She said that although the lake’s main mission is navigation, there are also recreation and flood control components, and those issues must be taken into consideration when addressing a higher pool that would allow for an extended boating season.
“All of these various components make it challenging to keep water levels consistent. What makes it even more challenging is that there are a lot of competing priorities,” Hawkins noted.
She said that when deciding the pool of the lake, the Corps had to consider rainfall predictions, as well as any “lead time” in weather forecasts. Armed with that information, they make the decision to raise or lower the pool level as needed.
“If we were to keep the water too high for too long, it could result in the stagnation of the pool, allowing algae to form that could be harmful,” Hawkins reported. “While draw down typically begins in July, if we can make sure there is enough water for navigation purposes, we could keep the levels higher, leading to an extended boating season.”
In addition to ensuring adequate waterflow for the lake’s intended purpose, she said that the USACE had requested information pertaining to the facilities at the lakes, specifically the docks.
“In order to meet the end of season lake levels, we may need to raise the lake levels at times,” she reported. “It is important for us to know how we will impact facilities at high lake levels as well as low.”
She was seeking to learn the elevations, both high and low, that would affect facilities, including docks. To obtain this information, she has been in contact with William Weisel, of Cove Run, LLC, who is one of the driving forces behind an extended boating season at Tygart Lake.
Weisel said that any lakefront dock or property owners who wish to comment on the proposed policy or those that have concerns that their lakefront property could not tolerate a rise in lake levels of 10-15 feet in August, should contact him by email at [email protected], or by phone at 724-600-4688.
“Again, there are many, many factors that we have to look at when considering the lake’s water levels, but we will try to keep the pool higher when the conditions are right,” said Hawkins. “A higher lake level into the fall will be evaluated on a year to year basis, as weather is one of our biggest factors and is pretty unpredictable, but we are willing to try each year to help keep an elevated water level, when possible.”
“We don’t have all of the information yet, but the more information we have, the better equipped we will be,” she imparted. “The USACE is committed to giving it a try. As far as I know, we are the only district that is trying to utilize this type of operational flexibility, so that boaters can enjoy the water a little longer.”