Ameren: Lake level will drop slightly once more before rise begins

Joyce Miller
newsroom@lakesunonline.com
A local dock sits incorrectly positioned as surrounding water levels reach lows.

Depending on snowmelt and other conditions, Lake of the Ozarks could see a slight drop down from 653.1 feet above sea level before beginning to see a slow rise. Based on projections from Ameren Missouri the lake could drop several tenths to 652.5 before it stabilizes. Current forecasts put the lake level at 652.9 by Saturday. 

Much of what happens will depend on runoff from tributaries from snowmelt and conditions upstream from Truman Dam. An ice jam near Jefferson City that was causing Ameren to continue releasing into the Osage River has broken up allowing for a return to minimum flows. Ameren recognizes the drop to 652.5 is rare and presents challenges for dock owners. 

A week after being in the throes of a major winter freeze, Ameren is able to begin looking back to more normal operations. Over the next 6 weeks, the lake level will begin coming back up with lake levels back to 654 by mid-April, according to Warren Witt, head of hydro operations for Ameren Missouri for the Osage Energy Center.

Witt said Ameren’s Shoreline Management office has been fielding calls from dock owners reporting problems. Right now, Witt said the emphasis needs to be on safety. 

Ameren Missouri is encouraging all dock owners to take action now to prepare for the summer season. Making sure dock cables and hinges allow for flexibility will help with the movement as the water levels fluctuate. More importantly, is ensuring docks with electrical service are inspected to guard against electrical shock.

 The consistent sub-zero temperatures and extensive freezing experienced this month at  Lake of the Ozarks are unusual for the region. Even weather-resistant materials can degrade in extreme conditions, Witt said. 

Tough weather conditions serve as a good reminder to have professionals inspect all docks.

 "Nothing is more important than safety at Lake of the Ozarks," said Bryan Vance, supervisor of shoreline management at Ameren. "Dock owners can take advantage of warmer temperatures to have both a trusted dock builder and a qualified electrician look at their dock."

 "We've added a number of first-time dock owners over the past year," Vance said. "Many will be experiencing their first spring here at the lake. Thinking about dock safety is an important part of having a lake retreat or full-time home."

Lake of the Ozark’s water level dropped significantly last week as Ameren’s operations balanced the demand for energy with the annual winter drawdown and other conditions. Ameren’s guide curve for the winter drawdown is 654. Due to warmer winter temperatures leading up to the recent frigid blast, Ameren had held on to as much water as possible as a safety measure in case of bad weather and a need for an increased generation. 

While lake levels around 654 in the winter are not unusual, the drop is usually more gradual than what happened last week.

Starting in January, Ameren begins the annual winter drawdown of the lake to make room for spring rains. 

Fluctuations in Lake and river levels occur for several reasons. Ameren Missouri generally lowers the water level at the lake during winter months to about 654 feet above sea level (or six feet below the full reservoir level of 660 feet) to reduce the possibility of flooding during spring rains. The Osage River level also fluctuates when Ameren Missouri's Bagnell Dam releases water during the drawdown.

Ameren recommends: 

Continually inspect docks.

Water movement, freezing and thawing can cause wear on your dock's electrical equipment. Monthly ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) testing of electric equipment and bonding wires is recommended. Have both the dock and the power supply to the dock regularly inspected by a qualified electrician. 

Fix problems first.

Once it is warm enough to get in the water, never energize or re-energize, engage a breaker, or reset a GFCI while someone is swimming near the dock. Get the dock inspected and fixed before using or swimming nearby. 

Feel a shock, swim away from the dock.

Never swim around a dock where breakers or GFCIs are tripping. Do not touch any part of the dock or adjacent docks if a tingle or shock is felt. Swim or get away from the dock, cables and attachments. Exit the water away from the source of the shock. If possible, swim to the shoreline and exit there.

 A listing of certified dock builders and additional safety information is available at AmerenMissouri.com/Lake.

 Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company's electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Ameren Missouri's mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 132,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company's service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit Ameren.com/Missouri or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or Facebook.com/AmerenMissouri.