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Lake Freeman's low water level causes restaurant's seawall to crumble

News 18 spoke to the owner of the Sportsman Inn about why he thinks low water led to the collapse of a seawall, and why an expert said he's right.

Posted: Oct 7, 2020 5:27 PM
Updated: Oct 7, 2020 8:05 PM

MONTICELLO, Ind. (WLFI) -- A Lake Freeman business owner said the low lake levels are putting his restaurant in jeopardy, and it's not due to a lack of business. 

"My worst fear is that the entire seawall collapses and the restaurant falls into the water," Sportsman Inn Owner George Wade said. "It just basically collapsed and today clearly worse than yesterday. So, it's not done yet."

Wade has a big problem. The seawall behind his restaurant is on the brink of collapsing.

"Clearly the lack of rain has amplified the situation," said Wade

As we've been reporting, endangered mussels in the Tippecanoe River led U.S. Fish and Wildlife to increase the mandatory level of the river. That causes lake levels to lower when there's not enough rain.

Right now, the Shafer Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corporation (SFLECC) is waiting for the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling.

"I feel like right now what's going to happen is, we're going to have to wait until we get water," Wade added.

The earth is crumbling towards the seawall causing it to push toward the lake. Wade said he believes it's directly related to the fact that the lake isn't high enough to support the other side.

"There's got to be a way to put some water back in so people can fix the damage before it gets worse," Wade said.

Shorescape Inc. Owner Dave Jordan, whos company build and repairs seawalls said Wade is right.

"It takes the pressure off the wall and there's more pressure behind, it's going to push out," said Jordan.

Jordan said the soil can become unstable behind the seawall. When the water level drops, it can no longer support the weight of the soil.

Jordan said he's seen about six properties with the same problem.

"It's going to be a real mess if the lake doesn't get back up and winter sets in," Jordan added.

Wade wants something to be done before someone else has the same problem.

"How many houses have to go into the water or seawalls have to fail before something gets done?" asked Wade.

The appeals court did not give a specific date on when it would reach a decision about changing the amount of water required in the river.

However, a letter from SFLECC said it could be as long as 11 months before a ruling is made.

News 18 reached out to the Indiana Office of U.S. Fish and Wildlife for comment. They have not returned our call.

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