CELORON – As we get into the fall, those on Chautauqua Lake need make plans to remove their boats and docks from the water before October 20, especially if lower water levels may impact removal plans.
“Starting on that date the Warner Dam will open and Chautauqua Lake levels will trend downward for the winter season,” said Chautauqua County Watershed Coordinator Dave McCoy. “Each fall we reduce the lake level from the summer recreational level of 1308.2’ to a lower winter elevation.”
The Warner Dam, located along the Chadakoin River in Jamestown is owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and is operated by the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
The Warner Dam is operated following a rule curve and serves a primary role of reducing flood damage to homes surrounding Chautauqua Lake. The BPU opens the dam annually during the fall and winter months in an effort to lower the lake level and reduce potential flooding and shoreline damage by ice sheets in the winter and spring.
It is often newer property owners that can be surprised by the seasonal drop in lake levels, while those who have a longer history on Chautauqua Lake know what to anticipate and are prepared.
“We are rarely able to get much below 1307.0’, but stakeholders can anticipate that the lake may drop a foot or more within two to three weeks after we open the Warner Dam,” said McCoy. “How fast the lake will drop depends upon the weather.”
The deepest permanent boat launch sites are located at Long Point State Park and Lucille Ball Memorial Park and are considered by many experienced boaters to be the best public ramps to use in low lake level conditions, but there are other ramps that work well for smaller watercraft.
Also, some of the marinas on Chautauqua Lake have facilities to pull larger boats out of the water.
Maintaining the recreational lake level presented some challenges in 2021 due to an unusually dry spring, which was followed by almost three times the normal amount of rain in July, with high lake levels and flooding caused by intense rainfall events.
Since then, the County has had enough rainfall to properly maintain lake levels. Interested parties can visit the resources page of the Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance’s website at www.chautauquaalliance.org/resources/ to view current and past U.S. Geological Survey hydrological data on lake levels and Chadakoin River stage and discharge.
“We are looking forward to the 2022 season and hope Mother Nature gives us enough, but not too much water to maintain lake levels at the desired level,” said McCoy.