Judge rules for Otter Lake drawdown

HOUGHTON – The waters of Otter Lake can be drawn down temporarily to make necessary dam repairs, a judge ruled in Houghton County Circuit Court Friday.

Due to leakage in stop logs at the dam, the lake level has fallen below the state-required level, Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi said in her ruling Friday.

“It seems to me that this request is consistent with what the statute requires, both in the long-term maintenance of the dam and in compliance with the existing court order to maintain the minimum lake level,” she said.

Drain Commissioner John Pekkala said the lake would be dropped from its current level of approximately 611.5 feet to 609 feet to conduct a state-required inspection, followed by the replacement of stop logs at the dam.

Pekkala said the maximum drawdown is six inches per day. Repairs will take approximately two weeks, Pekkala said.

The dam was last inspected in 2009, which revealed deficiency in the stop logs, Pekkala said. No maintenance was done at that time, he said.

Pekkala also conducted another inspection this year.

“They’re worse today than they were in 2009, as far as the leakage,” he said.

Of nine bays at the dam, all have leakage from the stop logs, Pekkala said. Some are found only at the bottom, while others go all the way up.

Due to the leakage from the stop logs, the lake is two inches below the court-set minimum level of 611.5 feet, he said.

The Michigan State Police are also planning an underwater inspection of the stop logs.

“Are you of the opinion that the most cost-effective way, the safest way, for the part 307 inspection that you’re required to undertake be done through this temporary drawdown procedure?” the county’s attorney, Mark Koerner, asked Pekkala.

“Yes, everything would be coordinated at the same time,” Pekkala said.

After the hearing, Pekkala was addressed by residents concerned about the possibility of the repairs occurring on Labor Day weekend. Pekkala said it would depend upon what the DEQ permit for the work requires.