December 26, 2023
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 maintenance and litter cleanup will soon be underway. Plans call for the work to be completed and the lake refilled by Easter.
“This work is necessary for enhancing the environmental health of the lake and for preserving Lake Junaluska for all to enjoy for years to come,” 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. The winter lake drawdown also allows for opportunities to inspect utility lines, complete maintenance to the dam and pick up litter that has collected on the shores and bottom of the lake. A community lake cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24.
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.
The Lake Junaluska Walking Trail will remain open to the public throughout the process. Any closures that may be needed will be posted online at lakejunaluska.com/drawdown. There will be no boating permitted on the lake until it is restored to full pool. The timeframe for the lake drawdown and project completion by Easter is weather-dependent and may be adjusted based on rain or snow.
Funding for the project comes from a combination of sources ranging 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, in 2022, public funding through the state of North Carolina was allocated to assist in 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 deeply appreciative for the generous charitable gifts and the support we receive at the local, regional and state level that make it possible for Lake Junaluska to continue to be a beloved place for renewal and transformation,” said Howle.
Learn more at online at lakejunaluska.com/drawdown.
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.