Controversy Over Water Levels
12:58 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

DNR Plans to Change Rest Lake Dam Flows

DNR managers are proposing a new operating plan for the Rest Lake dam in Manitowish Waters.  But property owners want more time to give input. 

Lake Manitowish is part of the Manitowish Chain of Lakes, which many property owners worry would be disrupted by a change at Rest Lake Dam.
Lake Manitowish is part of the Manitowish Chain of Lakes, which many property owners worry would be disrupted by a change at Rest Lake Dam.
Credit www.vrbo.com

The draft order calls for reducing the fall water drawdown to 1 foot, compared to the current three-and-a-half foot drawdown.

DNR Northern Region Director John Gozdzialski explains taking out less water in the fall means there will be more water in the winter and early spring. 

“The idea is to try to make it more of a natural system, where in the spring the flows are high and then they taper off.  It’s trying to get a better balance between the waters that stay in the chain.  And those that are allowed to be released downstream into the Manitowish River.” 

Gozdzialski says higher spring river flows will support fish spawning and provide habitat for other wildlife.  And he says the new plan would provide more water for downstream stakeholders on the Manitowish River. 

But many landowners on the Manitowish chain of lakes are opposed to the changes, saying higher winter lake levels will damage docks, seawalls and boathouses built to be permanent.

“It’s a huge deal.  We don’t know directly what the economic impact would be on landowners, but it could be into the millions of dollars, in terms of what they would have to do to mitigate for the higher water level.” 

That’s Manitowish Waters town chair John Hanson, also head of the Manitowish Waters Defense Fund, a coalition reresenting property owners.  The group is also worried the plan could result in lower summer lake levels that might strand boats or leave piers high and dry.

The DNR says there will be a one year implementation delay to allow property owners time to adjust. 

The agency has scheduled two public informational meetings on June 27th at 12:30 and 6 pm…in the Manitowish Waters town hall.  The Defense Fund wants those meetings delayed…to have more time to respond to the proposal.