Jan. 6, 2022
Lake Junaluska has opened its dam to draw down the lake, which will allow for the removal of silt from the lake’s floor as well as repairs, maintenance and litter cleanup. Plans call for the process to be completed and the lake refilled by Easter.
“This work is critical for protecting the environmental health of the lake and preserving this beautiful place in Western North Carolina for all to enjoy,” said Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska.
Silt builds up over time from creeks flowing 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.
Eventually, 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. The drawdown also offers the chance to remove litter that has collected on the shores and bottom of the lake.
The Lake Junaluska walking path will remain open to the public. There will be no boating on the lake until the lake is restored to full pool. The time frame for the lake drawdown and project completion by Easter is weather-dependent and may be adjusted if it rains or snows.
Drawing down the lake typically takes place every few years. Because of weather and safety conditions during lake drawdowns in 2020 and 2021, the full scope of work could not be completed, necessitating the drawdown of the lake again in 2022.
Funding for this biennial 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, this year public funding through the state of North Carolina has been 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 grateful for support from the community, region and state that helps us maintain Lake Junaluska and be good stewards of the earth,” said Howle.
Celebrate Easter at Lake Junaluska with an annual sunrise service at the Amphitheater below the iconic Lake Junaluska Cross overlooking the lake.
Take part in the Friends of the Lake 5K Road Race & Walk on April 16, 2022, and enjoy a scenic run or walk around Lake Junaluska while supporting the lake!