Low water levels on Lake Freeman creating obstacles for businesses and boaters

People living on Lake Freeman in White County are dealing with abnormal river conditions. A local group is taking matters into its own hands to solve the problem.

Posted: Aug 21, 2020 9:50 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2020 1:18 AM

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)— It's an issue many people living on Lake Freeman in White County aren't foreign to. However, it's a problem they say has gone on way too long. 

"Today the boat is down a little over foot," said Owner of Madam Carroll Chris Peters. 

Peters said low lake levels are creating quite a situation for his staff. While this season has been abnormally dry for White County, abnormal river conditions also derive from another issue.

"We started the task force back in 2014," said John Coppelmann. "When the lake was down a few feet at that point and that's when our battle really started."

John Coppelmann is a chair person for the Shafer Freeman Lake Environmental Conservation group. He says a wildlife group called Fish and Wildlife noticed several mussels were exposed by the Oakdale Dam.

"They started giving mandates to Nipsco about certain amount of flow that needed to go out to Oakdale to keep the dam covered," said Coppelmann. 

-and how did the group recommend keeping the flow? By moving more water from Lake Freeman. In 2018 it became a mandate that Nipsco move water from Lake Freeman to the dam.

"Fish and Wildlife doesn't term it as draining the lake," said Coppelmann. "They look at it as keeping a certain flow going across the Tippecanoe riverbed. To do that flow you have to drain the lake because the water is obviously not coming in."

So with water moving from Lake Freeman to Oakdale Dam and no rain for most of the season, it's caused lake levels to decrease. That's causing many issues for the Madamm Carroll. 

"We've just put a whole bunch of capitol into making things COVID approved, outdoor seating televisions upstairs so you can see shows down here," said Peters. 

Crew members on the Madam Carroll have tried to add extra steps for customers to safely board the boat. Peters has purchased longer chains to keep the boat afloat. Madam Carroll's ADA ramp doesn't extend like it's suppose to because the boat is so low the door doesn't open completely.

"Now we are having to rebuild infrastructure," said Peters. "We are welding the door shut so we can change hinges so the bands can load in this weekend if the lakes not coming up."

Electric company Nipsco said in a release that boaters need to be mindful of submerged objects in the water.

"If you are boating and don't know what's under the water which most people don't, you could hit those,be injured, be killed," said Peters. 

Coppelmann said people aren't against preserving the mussels in the Oakdale Dam. But he does feel like Fish and Wildlife's studies were incomplete and inaccurate. This is why people apart of Shafer Lake Freeman Environmental Conservation Corporation are looking remove the mandate that more water flows down to the Oakdale Dam. 

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