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Summer Lake Levels Questioned

The Long Lake dam is owned by Washburn County and operated by the Washburn County Highway Department (WCHD).  Thus the Department controls water levels, subject somewhat to the vagaries of weather, and also subject to the terms of an Inspection, Operation and Monitoring Plan (IOMP) approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The IOMP sets upper and lower levels as well as target levels somewhere in-between.   The permitted upper limit for Long Lake is 1,224.2 (all numbers are feet above sea level) and the permitted lower is 1,220.5 in winter and 1,222.0 in summer.  The target levels-the levels WCHD actually tries to maintain-are 1,223.2 in summer and 1,222.6 in winter.  The summer target level of 1,223.2 has been in effect for six years, and is supported by LLPA and the Tomahawk Scout Reservation.

Since the target levels are by definition between the minimum and maximum limits, WCHD has discretion to alter them.  Town of Madge officials have recently suggested that the summer target level should be reduced by 0.2 feet, or approximately 2.5 inches, noting that in the past that was the target level.  Under a recently adopted written policy of WCHD no such change can be made unless supported by all three townships in which Long Lake is located, those being the towns of Birchwood, Long Lake and Madge.

The current 1,223.2 summer boating target has been used for the last six summers.  The lower 1,223.0 target did create a reduced water level buffer for many lake shore owners when drier weather conditions often occurred.  Many times the water level would fall below target, making it more difficult to navigate the bays, get boats off lifts and increasing prop damage while creating an increased opportunity for disturbing the natural lake bed from boat turbulence.  This is why the LLPA recommended the current levels years ago and these levels have been well received by most lakeshore owners.   Of course, there are times that some will think the water level is too high or too low but when rain is not replenishing the lake level many issues are created.  It is easier to let extra water out following rain than it is to keep the level up when mother nature is not cooperating.

Anyone having concerns about possible reduction of the summer target level should express them to their town officials.