Lake water level will be lowered to repair dam

HOUGHTON – The waters of Otter Lake can be drawn down temporarily to make necessary dam repairs, a judge ruled in Houghton County Circuit Court Friday.

Due to leakage in stop logs at the dam, the lake level has fallen below the state-required level, Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi said in her ruling Friday.

“It seems to me that this request is consistent with what the statute requires, both in the long-term maintenance of the dam and in compliance with the existing court order to maintain the minimum lake level,” she said.

Drain Commissioner John Pekkala said the water level in the lake would be lowered to conduct a state-required inspection, followed by the replacement of stop logs at the dam.

Pekkala said the maximum drawdown is six inches per day. Repairs will take about two weeks, he said.

An inspection in 2009 revealed problems with the stop logs, Pekkala said, although no maintenance was done at that time.

Pekkala also conducted another inspection this year.

“They’re worse today than they were in 2009, as far as the leakage,” he said.

All nine bays at the dam have leakage from the stop logs, Pekkala said. Some are found only at the bottom, while others go all the way up.

Due to the leakage from the stop logs, the lake is two inches below the court-set minimum level of 611.5 feet above sea level, he said.

The Michigan State Police are also planning an underwater inspection of the stop logs.

“Are you of the opinion that the most cost-effective way, the safest way, for the part 307 inspection that you’re required to undertake be done through this temporary drawdown procedure?” county attorney Mark Koerner asked Pekkala.

“Yes, everything would be coordinated at the same time,” Pekkala said.

After the hearing, Pekkala was addressed by residents concerned about the possibility of the repairs occurring on Labor Day weekend. Pekkala said it would depend upon what the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit for the work requires.