Officials watching rising Patoka Lake levels

Patoka Lake photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

Patoka Lake’s water level has climbed to just under 90% of its capacity, as heavy rains continue to fill the reservoir.

Local government agencies and area farmers expressed concerns with the rising pool in late winter, when the dam reached around 77% capacity. This morning, representatives from the cities of Jasper and Huntingburg as well as Dubois County met to discuss the situation with lake management.

Ultimately, local stakeholders voiced their support to aggressively release water during the next two weeks to help drain the water.

Patoka Lake is managed by the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a Monday phone interview, Jamie Blanton, a hydraulic engineer with the group, explained that based on the current forecast, a spillway overflow like the one that led to widespread flooding in 2011 is not expected to take place.

A previous request to release extra water from the lake to preemptively cut the water level was approved in early March, but more than 13 inches of rain that have fallen in the nearly two months since complicated efforts to drain the dam down to a normal level.

Even with the additional discharge request approved, the corps was restricted to releasing the extra water through timed intervals between precipitation.

“We have pushed water at the higher levels when we could, but when we get rain every few days, it makes it really difficult,” Blanton said. “Because we have to reduce the flow for the incoming rain.”

That additional discharge deviation expires today, and the corps will now seek to extend it and aggressively release water through May 15. The lake’s elevation is currently 546.5 feet, a little more than 10 feet higher than it normally is at this time of the year. During the event that led to Jasper flooding eight years ago, the reservoir’s elevation pushed to 549.66 feet — or just above 125% full.

“Obviously, we wish it wasn’t that high,” Blanton said of the current level. “But we’re not concerned at this point. We’re just watching everything really closely.”

Wednesday’s emergency meeting consisted of a conference call in the Commissioner’s Chambers at the Dubois County Courthouse Annex between local leadership and Adam Connelly, who works with the Army Corps of Engineers. After the call ended, attendees discussed the importance of meeting with army corps representatives to discuss changes that can be made to prevent the lake from filling up to such high levels.

“You can always look at the past to try to help correct or learn for things that are coming in the future,” County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said.




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