Decreased water levels send boats to dry land; drop expected to continue

A number of Cheat Lake boaters are hurrying to get their vessels on dry land after receiving news — most of it through texts and social media posts — that the water level is going to continue to be dropped by the operators of the nearby Lake Lynn hydroelectric facility for the foreseeable future.

The water level is being lowered by an average of one foot a week, according to a social media post from Edgewater Marina. This is also being done because the oxygenation level of the water downstream has decreased, possibly jeopardizing aquatic life, according to cheatlake.com.

Water levels may continue to drop at an even faster rate until there is significant rain. The end result could be a lake level of 865 feet within three weeks and extremely shallow water, making it difficult to get boats out of the water without damage.

Lake Lynn, which produces enough electricity annually to power nearly 14,000 homes, is owned and operated by Cube Hydro Partners of Bethesda, Md. The facility was sold by FirstEnergy, the parent of Mon Power, in 2013.

A Cube Hydro executive said in an email to The Dominion Post that a number of factors are coming into play regarding its decision to lower water levels on Cheat Lake.

“Lake Lynn’s license requires an absolute minimum flow of 100 cube feet per second at all times,” Mark Gross, Cube Hydro’s vice president of operations, wrote. “The minimum flow was designed to preserve downstream water quality. When there are extremely dry periods, the combination of low inflows, evaporation and the mandatory withdrawals from the lake can result in elevations moving below normal levels. To date, that combination of factors is driving Lake Lynn’s reservoir levels lower.

“We have been in discussions with the relevant state and federal agencies and are working to open our winter boat access to reduce any challenges for recreational boaters.”

For the last several days, boat owners have been urged either to remove their boats or dock them in deeper water.

Late Tuesday morning, a handful of boat owners at Cheat Lake Marina were busy getting vessels to dry land. Some said they were frustrated about the short notice they were given and were going to have to scramble to find storage for their boats.

“They called my daughter, who was in Florida (at Disney World),” said Jack McNensky, of Washington, Pa. “She was told there was three feet of water and to get my boat out ASAP.

“I should have gotten this notice earlier.”

Candi McCullough, of Morgantown, was off work Tuesday and was being helped by McNensky with her vessel, a Bennington Pontoon boat.

“My husband and I both work,” said McCullough, an obstetrician at Mon Health Medical Center. She said they usually remove their boat by mid-October, and are in the process of building a boat storage area at their home.

“I am going to have to come up with something for storage,” she said.

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