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Sheriff urges caution on Lake Neshonoc during drawdown, dam repairs

Mitch Reynolds

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A big drawdown of Lake Neshonoc began Monday.

The long-delayed repairs to the Town of Hamilton dam are finally underway by operator Eagle Creek Renewable Energy.

The repairs are needed after damage to the dam that dates all the way back to the floods in July of last year, along with more flooding last August.

“Oh my gosh, we pulled out four, 12-foot-long planks out of the trash rack — one of them we think got chewed up in the turbine, so repairs had to be made for that,” said Theresa Schnitzler, who is a backup operator at the dam, adding. “We think it’s the big grass mats that came down the lake, took out half of the flashboards on the dam.”

Water levels at Lake Neshonoc will be lowered over the next few days so that crews can repair those flashboards. The dam will get drawn down six inches per day until lake level drops by three feet. At that point the flash boards on the dam will get replaced. The flash board are built to fail under pressure of heavy flood waters.

Repairs have been delayed on the dam a couple of times.

The long overdue repairs have made operation of the dam a little hairy, Schnitzler said.

“You have to maintain your required DNR levels, plus you’ve gotta be able to make power,” Schnitzler said. “So, it’s a pretty delicate situation right now and is really gonna help when those are fixed.”

The latest delay was because of potential conflicts with a big soccer tournament held this weekend far downstream on the La Crosse River.

The La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department has urged caution on Lake Neshonoc during the repairs and for boaters to steer clear of the dam until repairs are complete.