Beaver Lake residents: Raise lake level

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Beaver Lake’s water level is where it should be, though it is lower than what the public is used to it being, another engineer has determined.

Utility officials are concerned that the lower level could be a problem should the city face another drought like last year’s and need a supplement water supply.

The Jasper Utility Service Board’s water committee will ask the full board to study how the level of the city-owned lake could be raised, if a second dam should be installed in Patoka River and costs of doing both.

Water committee members listened Thursday morning to a report from Morley and Associates of Evansville, which studied why Beaver Lake’s water level is lower than it was before a new spillway was installed last summer.

Lee McClellan, Morley’s managing project engineer, went through a lengthy explanation that included how the data used to determine standard measurements had changed since the lake was created in 1955 and how natural elements could have played a factor, like erosion over the years and built-up debris that could have been washed out by a big rain.

Within that explanation, McClellan said that the biggest indicators are found with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ inspection reports on Beaver Lake that were done in the early 1980s, which are used as a standard measurement by engineers. The reports show that the lake’s normal pool was higher than the spillway, he said. The Corps’ Phase I report, done in 1980, stated that the pool was eight-tenths of a foot, or 9.65 inches, higher than the spillway. The report done in the next phase, in 1982, said the pool was .77 of a foot, or 9.24 inches, higher than the spillway.

At that time, the federal agency said that the 28-foot-wide channel, not the spillway, controlled the level, McClellan said. “When you’ve got a lot of water and you’re trying to push it through 28 feet, it’s gonna be a lot higher” level, he said.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources mandated that improvements be made to the dam. Should the area get what the state agency considers the area’s maximum possible precipitation, 26 inches of rain in eight hours, the excess water must pass over the spillway and not the dam.
Columbus-based Force Construction was hired to make the $3.3 million in improvements. The spillway was enlarged and the channel was removed.

Because the channel is gone, the water is moving like it should, thus placing the water level where it should be, McClellan said. But water markings on dock posts and sea walls indicate that the water level used to be higher.

The 20 lake residents at the committee meeting were still looking for some indication that the water level would be raised to where they knew it was prior to the new spillway being installed. “All the
facts you quoted here has done nothing” to soothe that problem, resident Birnie Jeffries said.

Water committee members said they know the level is lower now than it was prior to the new spillway being installed. “The water level is lower than what you’re used to,” said Wayne Schuetter, committee member and president of the utility service board.

But the board’s biggest concern, Schuetter said, is if the amount of water in the lake will be an adequate backup supply should the city be hit with drought like it was last summer. During that drought, the city asked the Corps to release more water from Patoka Reservoir and the agency directed the city to get water from Beaver Lake, which was already at a low level, Schuetter said.
When the Corps did release more water, it took two days for it to reach the city, he said.

The committee will propose the board study how to raise the lake level and how much it would cost to do that as well as to add a second dam in Patoka River to create a secondary pool of water.

Mayor Terry Seitz said that if a plan is created to raise the water level, it is possible that the lake residents would have to help the city pay for that work.

“Well, it will cost a lot to lower my dock, so I may as well give it to you,” lake resident Darryl Huls said. “Sounds like it’s gonna be a wash anyway.”

Huls said Thursday evening that all the residents around the lake want is the level to be back to where it used to be.

“I want to be able to launch my boat from my dock,” he said, “but the water is too shallow. We’re all in that situation. We need the water back at its traditional level.”

The water committee will discuss the matter with the utility service board during the board’s meeting Monday night; the meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the common council room of City Hall, 610 Main St.

Contact Candy Neal at

More on