Task force hopes to regulate Lake Freeman

WHITE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – After weeks of unusually low water levels, Lake Freeman is back to normal.

However, Shafer and Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corporation President John Koppelman said he doesn’t think it’s going to last.

“The water levels are normal, but we don’t think this is going to be an ending problem,” Koppelman said.

Koppelman said requirements issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to cause problems for Lake Freeman.

“We don’t agree with the numbers they’ve come up with,” said Koppelman. “We don’t feel they’re correct, and that’s why we’re looking into coming up with a better solution.”

According to Koppelman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mandated NIPSCO to release more water from the Oakdale Dam to protect endangered mussels in the Tippecanoe River.

The conservation group said the mandate will continue to lower Lake Freeman, especially in times of drought.

Now, the group has formed a task force to come up with a solution that will keep everyone satisfied.

“We want to help and make it work for everybody, the lake property owners and the mussels, but we just don’t think it’s working that way right now,” said Koppelman.”

Lee Kreul is a member of the task force. He said they will bring in members in the fields of biological science, hydrology and engineering to conduct research on the current plan.

“We’re going to look very closely into the science behind their determination that more water was needed in the lower river,” said Kreul.

Koppelman said the dam is typically regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But in order to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife requests, NIPSCO was granted a temporary variance and it could become permanent.

He said NIPSCO requested a permanent change in the operation protocol that will be presented at a FERC meeting in October.

Koppelman said the task force plans to show its research and persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its current regulation.

“Right now, we feel that it’s a win-lose situation,” said Koppelman. “We want a win-win situation — where we can keep the lake levels good and still keep water a natural run of the river rate down below Oakdale.”

If FERC grants the change, NIPSCO would continue to let more water from the dam.

Kreul said it’s a permanent solution that would create permanent problems.

“This means the lake will have continued, severe drops,” said Kreul. “Every time we go to drought or near drought conditions, the lake will go down and become unusable.”

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