Plans to raise Shawano Dam water level put to a halt

SHAWANO, Wis. (WBAY) - Businesses in Shawano are upset the dam's water levels won't be raised anytime soon. Action 2 News reported the low water caused safety concerns for boaters after federal restrictions were put on the dam.

Dam restrictions enforced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) lowered water levels in Shawano Lake and the Wolf River by roughly half a foot. It was blamed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in boat damages over Memorial Day weekend.

"People are coming in every day and asking me what's going on why is the water so low. Some areas you can't get your boats off the lifts. Some areas you can't even get in to,” said Jeff Stachowiak, owner of Lighthouse Bar and Boat Launch.

FERC is requiring a 15-day public comment period, keeping the low levels in place for now.

"The commission has to review the comments we received along with the application we have before us, so as soon as we can get through all that information the commission will act as quickly as possible," said FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller.

"It's going to be 15 more days? That's going to really hurt our tourism here in Shawano. I don't know if there's some way they can get it to do it sooner but, yeah, it's hurting us this year for sure," said Patty Lasher, assistant manager at Shawano Four Seasons Resort.

On average $67 million is brought in annually through lodging, restaurants and other activities related to Shawano Lake. Now that number is jeopardized, with lodging reservations already dropping off, according to Lasher.

Rita Mondus, owner of Torch Lite Restaurant in Shawano, says if the water levels don't get raised immediately after the 15 day period she's afraid she's going to lose out on one of the busiest tourism weekends of the summer, the Fourth of July.

"Fourth of July is the coming out weekend, so we've got to be ready to go by the fourth, we got to be, because already the word is spreading, already people are starting to cancel their cabins, and starting to worry are we going to be able to use the lake? Is it even health safe?" said Mondus.

The public comment period ends June 27. Comments may be submitted online or by mail.

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