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Shawano Lake Water Levels


What determines the level of the lake?


Now that the dam has been approved to maintain the historic target water level of 802.9 year-round, residents have asked if the lake will still experience fluctuations in levels.  The short answer is, absolutely.  Here’s the rational…

First, it’s important to understand the role of the Little Rapids dam in downtown Shawano operated by Eagle Creek Renewable Energy.   Under their license, Eagle Creek is required to maintain a water level at the dam reservoir between 802.1 and 803.17 MSL (Mean Sea level) with a target of 802.9.   Eagle Creek has no discretion to hold back water or to release water.  They operate as a “run of river” dam which means the flow of water in the river downstream of the dam is the same as the flow of water upstream.   The natural fluctuations in water levels are impacted mainly be rain events or the lack there of.

Second, as it relates to the lake.  Having a higher target level at the dam will help the lake maintain a water level that supports safe navigation; however, precipitation will continue to have a dramatic impact.   The level of the lake is mainly impacted by rain.   Rain events like we have experienced this spring and early summer will help maintain higher water levels on the lake.   Good or bad, the lake does receive a fair share of flow from surrounding creeks as well as water that flows from Loon Lake to Washington Lake into Shawano and eventually out thru the West channel and into the Wolf River.   It is yet to be seen how much of an impact the new HHH bridge will have on our water levels.   The old HHH bridge served as a bottle neck and slowed the flow of water out of the lake back into the river.  As the span has effectively been doubled in size, one would anticipate this “bottle neck” effect will be diminished.

Bottomline, getting back to our normal target level at the dam (802.9) will certainly be advantageous for the vast majority of the year.   Precipitation will continue to be crucial.  Very dry, hot summer weeks will still result in evaporation and lower resulting levels.  Heavy precipitation will certainly cause the opposite.

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