HOT SPRINGS (AGFC) - The annual drawdown of Lake Hamilton will be 3 feet this year. Lake Catherine will be lowered 5 feet. Both drawdowns will begin Saturday, Nov. 6, and be completed by Friday, Nov. 12.
Entergy Corp. or Arkansas will gradually make these level adjustments at a rate of 4-6 inches per day on Lake Hamilton and 7-9 inches on Lake Catherine. The water released at the dams will be used to generate hydroelectric power. Entergy Arkansas will return the lakes to their normal summertime levels in early March 2010 (2011?).
Lake Catherine is being lowered two additional feet this year to allow the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to replace the deteriorated boat ramp at Remmel Dam Park. The new ramp will provide a safer, more accessible ramp with a straight-line slope that will work well for most lake levels and drawdowns. Construction will last about 60 days during this period, and, if possible, a temporary ramp may be put in place for boaters.
In addition to facilitating shoreline maintenance and inspection, the annual drawdown is part of a plan to help control nuisance aquatic vegetation which, in past summers, clogged much of the upper portion of Lake Hamilton.
Entergy Arkansas coordinates the upcoming winter's drawdown annually with the AGFC. Fisheries, vegetation, facility management and downstream water needs are the key factors considered in deciding the drawdown's depth and timing. This summer's annual aquatic vegetation inspection indicated Entergy Arkansas' aquatic vegetation management plan has again been effective in combating the excessive growth of water milfoil and naiad in Lake Hamilton.
Because of recent success with vegetation control and to allow for long-range planning, Entergy Arkansas will tentatively plan drawdown seasons to continue on an alternating pattern of 3- and 5-foot drawdowns. Alternating the drawdown depths helps prevent any vegetation species from adapting to a particular depth. Annual inspections will continue to verify this plan is working, and adjustments to the long-range plan will be made as needed to do what is best for overall lake management.
Boaters should use caution while on the lakes during the drawdown period because additional shallow areas will exist and winter rains can increase the amount of debris washed into the lakes. Owners of boats and floating docks should take precautions to ensure boats and docks are able to adjust to the drawdown. Failure to do so may cause damage to docks and boats. Some docks will be able to rest on the lakebed with little or no problem. If the shoreline is steep or rocky in a particular area, dock owners may need to temporarily move docks to deeper water. If relocating a dock, be sure it does not restrict navigation or become a boating hazard.
Entergy Arkansas will not require a permit for the temporary relocation of docks because of the drawdowns, but the dock must be returned to its permitted location once the lake returns to its summer level. Entergy Arkansas recommends using a licensed electrician to make any alterations to wiring in conjunction with the drawdown.
Lake Catherine is formed by Remmel Dam and Lake Hamilton is formed by Carpenter Dam. Both were built more that 60 years ago for hydroelectric generation. Lakes Hamilton and Catherine are part of Project 271, a hydroelectric project licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The license grants Entergy Arkansas authority to operate these reservoirs and related shorelines, and Remmel and Carpenter dams. The license also requires Entergy Arkansas to control activities affecting the lakes' environmental, safety and recreational values.
Permits must be obtained from Entergy Arkansas for any construction on the lake or shoreline, including boat docks, piers, walkways, swim docks, landings, embankments, bulkheads, seawalls, rip-rap and dredging, and filling operations. Changes in ownership, relocation, replacement, enlargement or significant alteration of existing facilities also require a new permit from Entergy Arkansas. The company's guidelines are revised periodically, so be sure to obtain the latest revision if you're planning to build on Entergy Arkansas' shoreline property.
Lakefront property owners who need further information on the drawdown schedule or shoreline permitting guidelines and applications for lakes Hamilton or Catherine may call Entergy Arkansas' hydro operations office at 501-844-2148 or visit the hydro operations website at www.entergy.com/hydro. Visitors to the website may subscribe to receive lake and flow information by e-mail.