After setting record lows in 2012, Tuttle Creek Lake is finally getting back to where it should be, according to Brian McNulty, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operation manager.
Because of recent precipitation in the area, the lake returned to its normal elevation of 1075.00 by the end of the day Friday, and was at 1,075.56 feet Saturday. That’s more than 10 feet above its level of as recently as last fall.
Even though the lake level is normal, the fluctuating temperatures have kept most recreational boaters and fishermen off the water.
“The crappie fishermen are starting to get on the lake but the water temperature is still a little cool,” McNulty said. “We’ve also had a few recreational boaters but no one is water skiing.”
Usually by mid-April the “crappie fishery is going strong” but not this year due to the water’s cold temperatures.
“The water temperature is in the low 50s and crappies don’t spawn until 55 degrees,” he said.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water temperature a year ago had already reached 68 degrees; the elevation at that time was 1075.39. Usually the water reaches a temperature of 55 by mid March, putting this year’s temperature about six weeks behind schedule.
Not only are the cold-water temperatures affecting water sports, but combined with the cold air temperatures campsites at Tuttle Creek Park are also taking a hit.
Yet in comparison with nearby lakes, including Milford, Tuttle Creek Lake is doing extremely well.
“Milford Lake is still 5 feet below the normal pool because they haven’t received as much rain as we have,” McNulty said. “Perry Lake is next downstream and is about 2 1/2 to 3 feet below the normal pool; we’re one of the few lakes to have a normal elevation.”
If the lake rises above normal elevation, the Corps can use various releases to control its location until the level normalizes.
“In April 2012 the lake jumped more than 5 feet; we stored the water for a short time and by May it was back down to the normal level,” McNulty said. “In June we had some small storms, which brought the water up more than 3 feet, but by July we were back to normal and dropping slowly.”
From July on the water levels continued to drop, causing problems for the local marinas by reducing their accessibility and eventually making them unusable all together.
The low lake elevations also exposed boating hazards last year, among them trees and stumps, which are now back underwater and no longer hazardous to recreational boaters.
“Tuttle Creek Lake gets quite a bit of inflow,” McNulty said. “ Historically on average, we replace the entire amount of water four times per year – not all lakes are like that – we’re usually really good about keeping it at normal level and we recover pretty quickly.”