Drawbacks to Drawdowns
Inside the Outdoors, July 4
, 2014

If one read my column last week, the discussion centered on the subject of Lake Somerset and the drawdown of the water basin back in 2012.

Anglers and boaters alike have realized its backlash on sporting activities. Fishermen and women have found access to the water next to, if not, impossible to reach. But if one considers those the only existing problems, the depth of the matter goes much deeper than that. The aquatic life is feeling the effects, as well.

It is true, many lakes, both county and state-owned, have been drawn down to kill weed growths. This has been advantageous to each compound. But when dam leaks become apparent, such as in the case of Lake Somerset, drawdowns have an adverse reaction whereby this stimulating factor can only have a negative response. As a consequence, fish find themselves literally pushed together, driven away from their habitat where they can hide, forage or spawn.

According to a study done by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute issued by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, “Reduced flow from groundwater into streams, wetland and lakes can have far-reaching impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. Without cooling groundwater, a first-class trout stream becomes a troutless stream. Up to 70 percent of the water in some wetlands flows from groundwater. Because most species of wildlife depend on wetlands during some stage of the life cycle, groundwater drawdowns can severely affect critical habitat for many birds, fish and mammals.”

As waters recede and there is less of it, new issues develop. From the website warnell.forestry.uga.edu, it states, “Depending upon the time of year, low water levels can have various effects upon fish population. Decreasing water levels forces young bream out into open water making them easy prey for bass. A fall-winter drawdown can be used to correct a mildly overcrowded bream population. In itself, low water levels in the spring may not affect a fish population. Declining water levels during the summer months can severely stress fish and sometimes result in a fish kill, it said.”

Recently, I received an email from a reader who faxed me a trifold titled, ‘Somerset Lake Action Committee,’ published by The Somerset County Conservancy. The purpose of the document is to educate readers as to the necessity of gaining support to meet the goals of eventually creating ‘potentially a new county park.’

The brochure told of how the lack of water is already affecting fish populations. From one section, it revealed some negative effects. “A prolong drawdown is already having impacts. Many large walleye, musky and tiger musky have presumably died as a result of lower lake levels.”

But that’s only the beginning. “Currently it’s down 6 feet but if the situation gets worse, it could be drained completely.”

There is no money allocated for making repairs. This is where the public needs to get involved. The Conservancy is organizing an effort to save Lake Somerset. It has formed a committee – Somerset Lake Action Committee. Here is how one can help.

  • Call one’s state and county representatives to voice one’s view
  • Contact the Somerset County Conservancy by either mail or email to add one’s name to the Conservancy’s letters to the county and state. Its mailing address is: P.O. Box 241, Somerset, PA 15501. One may also send his name by emailing: slac@somersetconservancy.org
  • Contribute financially to the fund, any amount one can give shows one’s support. All funds will be used in this effort to fix the lake. One can easily do this by going to somersetlakepa.org.
  • Get involved! Motivated volunteers are needed to help with events and other tasks to help with this effort. Go to somersetlakepa.org or contact the organization to get started. Letters to representatives are available for the asking as well
  • Join the Somerset County Conservancy. It can only do this important work with support from the people, especially readers of this column
  • Don’t delay. Your lake is on the line!

Somerset Lake has been identified as a Biological Diversity area in the Somerset County natural Heritage Inventory. In addition, it boasts one of the best fishing opportunities in the state. It is an important Bird Area due to its bird diversity, nesting Osprey, and incredible waterfowl migrations in spring and fall. Recreation opportunities are abundant.

The addition of a new county park would also have unmatched recreation potential to get adults and children outside and into nature.

All the above information was taken from the periodical.

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Congratulations to Latrobe’s Jarod Trunzo who caught himself a trophy perch from Latonka Lake in Mercer County recently. Instead of eating it, he returned it to the waters..


- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.