December 19, 2022
A temporary lowering of the water level at Lake Junaluska to allow for the removal of silt from the lake’s floor as well as repairs, maintenance and litter cleanup will soon be underway. Plans call for the work to be completed and the lake refilled by Easter.
“The work that takes place during the lake drawdown is essential for protecting the environmental health of the lake and helping preserve this beloved place for all to visit and experience,” said Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska.
Over time, silt builds up from creeks that flow into the lake, and dredging, silt removal and related maintenance are necessary to maintain an appropriate amount of depth and sustain the lake’s ecosystem.
During a drawdown, the lake is lowered slowly, in accordance with wildlife regulations, so that the animals that live in and around the lake can adjust accordingly to the smaller amount of water that will remain. Fish, ducks and other wildlife manage well in the shallow waters until the lake refills. At some points during the process, there will not be any water going over the spillways of the dam; however, the gates under the dam will continue to allow water to flow below the dam. Richland Creek will continue to flow freely throughout the entire process.
Barring rain in the forecast, an area of the lake near Highway U.S. 19 will become dry. At that point, equipment will be brought in to scrape the lake bottom and collect the accumulated silt. Silt deposits come from runoff into the Richland Creek and Factory Branch stream watersheds, which feed into Lake Junaluska. The work conducted will follow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirements.
In addition to silt removal, the lake drawdown offers a window of time in which other repairs and maintenance can occur. This year, slated work includes the inspection of all utility lines and infrastructure adjacent to the lake, maintenance to piers and replacement of two culverts near the main gate. The drawdown also offers the chance to remove litter that has collected on the shores and bottom of the lake.
The Lake Junaluska Walking Trail will remain open to the public throughout the process. There will be no boating permitted on the lake until it is restored to full pool. The time frame for the lake drawdown and project completion by Easter is weather-dependent and may be adjusted based on rain or snow.
Drawing down the lake typically takes place every other year. If the full scope of work cannot be completed due to weather and safety conditions, however, a drawdown may take place the following year. Drawdowns have taken place in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Funding for the project comes from a combination of sources from charitable gifts to public support. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Lake Junaluska relies on the generosity of charitable supporters to help preserve and maintain the lake, dam and its surrounding pathways for all to enjoy. Additionally, public funding was allocated through the state of North Carolina to assist with expenses in 2022 and 2023 related to dredging the lake in order to preserve this Haywood County asset that serves as a recreational hub for many in the community and region.
“We are thankful for the many charitable gifts and the support we receive at the local, regional and state level to help preserve Lake Junaluska for all to enjoy for years to come,” said Howle.
For more information, visit the Lake Drawdown page on our website.
When silt removal, dredging and maintenance are needed, typically every few years, a lake drawdown begins in late December with the lake restored to full pool by Easter.