Autumn on the Lakes

Ah!  Autumn is arriving.  Crops are ripening.  Foliage is starting to change colors.  The lakes are less crowded.  Shoals of minnows are being chased.  A few people taking slow boat rides in the evening.  Now and then, you catch yourself gazing over the lake, losing yourself in the moment.  Losing yourself in a moment that never lasts long enough.  Losing yourself in a moment you could happily live in forever.  You did not know it then, but this is why you got your place on the lake.

Memory is a vital attribute in life.  Often memories spur us on, compelling us to reach beyond our grasp.  Sometimes these memories are painful.  Sometimes these memories are ones you could happily live in forever.  Regrettably, we tend to forget why we are working so hard when work gets so hard.  I have to remind myself of the wisdom of an old man who had dredged in the Louisiana swamps.  He would say, “When you find yourself knee deep in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re there to drain the swamp.”

Enjoy Autumn on the lakes!

~Joe Roach, Executive Director




The Unwritten Text

Many years ago, I had a teacher who would tell his class to read the assigned text first for what it said, and then again for what it did not say.  The first time I heard this, I thought to myself that it was going to be an interesting semester.  But as the course progressed, I began to understand.  Often, the text would use many words and in doing so, say nothing.  Yet, when I asked myself what the text left unsaid or omitted, I began to understand what the author was trying to say.  I must say that semester was interesting, but it did spoil recreational reading for a long while.

While reading the summary of a study by USFWS titled: Tippecanoe River, Indiana:  Defining point source threats to rare endangered mussels, I heard my teacher say that I should read it again.  If you wish to read it, click here and have a look.  During the first read, I learned while the object of the study was to identify point sources that negatively affect the river via chemical degradation of water and sediment, it went on to suggest that a more serious threat to the mussels may be non-point source pollution such as: urban runoff; agricultural chemical inputs; aerial deposition; and excessive erosion and sedimentation.  During that second read, I learned the study did not point to the dams or abnormal fluctuations of water flow rates as being a threat to rare endangered mussels.  Then, I recalled all the information I have read from USFWS stating how the dams’ generation of electricity and their supposed change of the natural run-of-the-river flow rates were detrimental to the survival of the endangered mussels.  In all of that material, I recall nothing being said about these point and non-point source items being threats to the endangered mussels.

~Joe Roach, SFLECC Executive Director


News Release
Re: Annual Meeting
Date: August 27, 2016

On Saturday, August 27, the Shafer and Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corporation (SFLECC) held its annual meeting.  Board of Directors President, Lee Kreul, welcomed those in attendance.  Introducing the present Board of Directors, he thanked them for their volunteer service.  Going off the Board were Nan Albright-having served one term, and Wayne Garrison-having served two terms.  Kreul introduced Jared Bond, liaison representing Rep. Rokita.  Also introduced were Janet Dold and Jack Faker of the Greater Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.  They presented the SFLECC with $2,565 from their Frenzy on Freeman fundraiser in support of SFLECC’s efforts to keep the lakes level.  In appreciation of their raising $10,632 for this effort over the past two years, the SFLECC named the Monticello Chamber of Commerce as its recipient of its 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Chair of the Nominations Committee, Wayne Garrison, introduced the seven candidates for the five available Director positions.  They were: Merle Peterson (incumbent); Mike Triplett (incumbent); Lynn West (incumbent); Daryl Johns; Neil Klemme; Marc Motuliak; and Paul Neumann.  The polls were open until the end of the meeting.

John Koppelmann, former SFLECC President, discussed the ‘Keep the Lake Levels’ Taskforce’s activities during the past year.  Koppelmann noted FERC had presented its Draft Environmental Assessment, which agreed with SFLECC that in abnormal low flow periods NIPSCO was to stop generation of electricity and keep the lakes level.  In spite of this, USFWS has refused to concur with FERC’s position.  Koppelmann explained the several options available, but which course of action depends on what FERC’s final Environmental Assessment says, because USFWS has indicated if it is not accepting their position, they will not concur.  Then the two Federal Agencies must begin negotiations.  It was stressed that NIPSCO owns and controls the dams, not SFLECC.

SFLECC Treasurer, Jack Werner, presented the financial state of the organization.  He indicated that the finances were within the projected budgets for operations and dredging.  Werner indicated the Keep the Lake Levels fund has been drawing on SFLECC’s reserves and has been difficult to project needs, but thanks to community donations we are in good shape.

Joe Roach, Executive Director, shared highlights from the past year and anticipations for the next. He discussed the dredging occurring on both lakes.  Roach stressed if individuals want informed regarding high or low flow events on the lakes, NIPSCO is using White County’s Emergency Notification System.  In addition, he spoke regarding a mile and half buffer zone around the lakes in White County.  This buffer zone prohibits new confined animal feeding operations, CAFOs.

Gabrielle Haygood, Office/Land Manager, discussed her activities over the past year.  She noted the acceptance of license payment by credit card has improved timeliness of payments.  Construction around the lakes is on par with previous years.  The Clean-up Crew has been an asset this summer and has been quick to respond to items needing picked up.

After a period of questions and answers, Vice President John Engler called for the adjournment of the meeting.  This signaled the closing of the elections.  Elected to three-year terms as Directors of the SFLECC were:  Merle Peterson;  Mike Triplett;  Lynn West;  Daryl Johns;  and Paul Neumann.


This past Saturday at the SFLECC Annual Meeting, the Greater Monticello Chamber of Commerce & White County Visitors Bureau presented the SFLECC with the proceeds from the Frenzy on Freeman Fundraising Event held on May 20th earlier this year.  The event raised just over $5,000, with half of that going to the SFLECC for the ‘Keep the Lakes Level’ Fund.  In addition, the SFLECC presented the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ to the Chamber of Commerce for all the effort they’ve put forth so far to help us save our lake levels!

Pictured left to right: Jack Faker (Chamber Board President), Lee Kreul (SFLECC Board President), and Janet Dold (Chamber Executive Director)

Pictured left to right: Jack Faker (Chamber Board President), Lee Kreul (SFLECC Board President), and Janet Dold (Chamber Executive Director)


Our Amazing Dams

Yesterday, while driving in the rain, I found myself going over the Norway Bridge and over the Oakdale Bridge.  As I crossed each bridge, I gazed at each dam in wonderment.  I remembered an elderly neighbor recounting rare trips to Monticello and where he, his sister, and mother would ford the river before the lakes were created.  My grandfather and great uncle would tell how they traded at Delphi because it had more stores, better deals, and they wouldn’t have to get wet fording the river.

In 1923, the Norway Dam was completed and in 1924, the Oakdale Dam was completed.  With the closing of the spillway gates, Lake Shafer and Lake Freeman were filled.  And the stories changed.  No more did the stories contain who did what to whom while fording the river.  The stories were now about going to Monticello on Saturday nights to purchase supplies or to the livestock auctions or getting the great deal on the first tractor.

Over ninety years those dams have done more for this community than holding back water to make electricity or providing a place for people to escape for a rest.  They have provided incomes for people to feed their families.  They have provided the counties with revenue to build roads about which we can complain when we hit a bump.  They have provided schools with more than one room.  They have provided memories that we would never trade.

And they can provide so much more, if they are allowed to operate as they have for the last ninety years.

-Joe Roach

Oakdale 08 High - Oakdale Dam (2)

Water Flow Rates Year-Round

What a wonderful day, sunshiny with a few clouds, temperature’s just right, and a slight breeze.  Even more, the Tippecanoe River is transporting water at a rate that NIPSCO will not be required by USFWS to lower Lake Freeman.

Why am I watching the water flow rate coming down the Tippecanoe, especially after coming out of an abnormal low flow event that required NIPSCO to lower Lake Freeman almost a foot?  The answer is not that I’m a pessimist.  The answer is September and October can be prone to abnormal low flow events also, maybe not as frequent as July and August.  In fact, there are times during December and January when abnormal low flow events might happen.

The big danger during December and January is the water drop may not be seen if ice covers the lake.  Occasionally, lake ice is strong enough to allow the water to drop, but not drop itself.  This leaves a void between the water and unsupported ice above it, which could collapse under you.

A representative from USFWS has stated they are concerned about only one endangered mussel dying.  To this end, they are requiring NIPSCO to manage the water flow through the lakes in a new manner which now endangers people recreating in the summer, fall, and winter.

Hopefully we will be safe in the spring if there is adequate snow melt and rains.

Joe Roach

SFLECC Meets with US Fish & Wildlife, NIPSCO, & US Senator Dan Coats

DATE: August 16, 2016


During the past weeks, SFLECC has continued its fight, along multiple fronts, to maintain lake levels by eliminating flow requirements imposed again this summer by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). First, SFLECC has met with more than a dozen officials from both FWS and NIPSCO to address SFLECC’s concerns about the lowering of Lake Freeman. After the meeting, SFLECC Executive Director, Joe Roach commented: “FWS suggested it would consider ‘alternate solutions provided by an independent source’. FWS, however, could not immediately identify any funds that it could use to help develop the independent solution it desires.” Meanwhile, SFLECC has already spent more than $250,000 to prepare and file legal papers and expert reports demonstrating that FWS’s flow requirements are not based on sound science and should be eliminated.

Lakes Level Task Force Chairman, John Koppelmann, who attended the meeting added, “In the past 15 months, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), which will determine whether FWS’s flow mandates are made a permanent part of NIPSCO’s license, has received reports from our two expert hydrologists. Those reports demonstrate that maintaining constant lake levels is the best, scientifically-based means of providing the natural rate of flow for the mussels.”
Koppleman continued, “Once our experts’ reports were submitted, FERC’s own staff, including more than a dozen consulting scientists, as well as hydrologists commissioned by the State of Indiana also filed reports unanimously concurring with our experts about maintaining the lake levels. The science is in and we think all of these reports represent the views of ‘independent sources’ that should be adopted by FWS, without the delay and expense of more studies.”

In addition to meeting with FWS and NIPSCO, SFLECC president, Lee Kreul and Monticello Mayor Ken Houston met with U.S. Senator Dan Coats last week and requested assistance in expediting the release of the final environmental report from FERC. FERC released its initial environmental analysis last October and largely concurred with the SFLECC’s position; however, until the final report is released and FERC Commissioners determine what license requirements are appropriate, FWS’s mandate remains in effect. Kreul commented after the meeting, “Senator Coats listened to our plight and promised to make an official inquiry with FERC.”

Finally, SFLECC officers also met a member of U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita’s staff and requested assistance with FWS. “SFLECC is pulling every lever in this complicated battle, even though we don’t control the dams – – NIPSCO does – – and we are largely at the mercy of NIPSCO and FWS’s mandate.” said Kreul. Citing the Endangered Species Act, FWS first ordered increased flow during a drought in 2012 to provide more water for protected mussels below the Oakdale dam. FWS’s mandate went into effect again in 2014 and 2015.

This year, on August 4th, NIPSCO again alerted Lake Freeman residents that “Abnormal Low Flow” conditions existed because flow readings at a gauge at Winamac had dropped below 300 cubic feet per second (cfs). As a result of FWS’s mandate, NIPSCO discharged required flow rates at the Oakdale Dam that caused Lake Freeman’s levels to drop steeply. Despite this past weekend’s rain, as of the morning of Monday, August 15th the level of Lake Freeman was at ten inches below normal as reported on NIPSCO’s website – – while some residents have reported even lower readings. With heavy rainfall later in the day, the Lake was returned to normal levels.

What you can do to help:
SFLECC urges residents to:

-Contact your congressional representatives. Ask them to urge FERC to release its final report and encourage FWS to work for a balanced resolution.

-Contact NIPSCO. Ask NIPSCO to get off of the sidelines and join in the scientifically-based position presented in FERC’s initial report that provides for protecting the mussels by halting power generation and keeping the lakes level during abnormally low flow events. Call NIPSCO at 260-439-1260 or email

-Contact the US Fish and Wildlife at the Bloomington Indiana Field Office to express your concerns about the agency’s mandate to lower lake levels even though more than a dozen experts agree that FWS’s science is invalid:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife
620 S. Walker Street Bloomington, Indiana 47403,
(812) 334-4261 or email

-Document property damage, dying fish and wildlife, pools of stagnant water, newly exposed stumps and other hazards as well as your inability to access the lake. Do not disturb any mussels along exposed shoreline. Post pictures of any such damage on social media and email to

-Monitor SFLECC’s Facebook page for updates.

-Donate to SFLECC’s “Keep the Lake Levels Fund”

SFLECC’s Recommendations While Lake Levels Are Below Normal:

During the low flow event, SFLECC warned lake residents to be extremely careful while boating and beware of exposed stumps and other hazards . Residents are cautioned that, while they may need to remove boats from the water, they should not move boat lifts into deeper water.

SFLECC officials urge Lake Freeman residents to monitor their website to check the Tippecanoe River flows and access links to the NIPSCO and USGS river flow data.

SFLECC officials also encourage lake residents to be proactive and aware of the lake levels by monitoring the SFLECC website for lake level details and alerts or by signing up for any of three free options for water level alerts:
1) White County Emergency Notification System at

2) NIXLE Alerts where local NIPSCO hydro-related updates are available at

3) NIPSCO alerts at

There are also free apps that can be downloaded to mobile devices to receive the daily flow levels for the Winamac gauge, and the gauges below Norway Dam and Oakdale Dam. The IOS apps are: “Floodwatch” and “Rivercast”. For Android devices use: “Riverflows” or “Levels-USGS Water Data”.

John Koppelmann, Lake Levels Task Force Chair 574 583-3171
Joe Roach, Executive Director 574 583-9784

Boat Launches

This past week, I saw an all too common practice at boat launches for which occasionally I have been guilty.  The practice is called “power loading.”  This happens when a boat trailer is not backed down the boat ramp far enough to allow the boat to glide onto its cradle until it reaches the front bumpers on the trailer.  Instead, the boat is stuck on its cradle only partially up the trailer and the motor is revved up to push the boat the remaining distance onto the trailer.

During a power load, the motor’s propeller is generally further from shore than the end of the boat ramp.  As a result, the propeller washes away lake bottom just past the end of the boat ramp.  After many power loading events, a hole is created at the end of the boat ramp.

I asked the individual loading the boat if it would have been easier to just back further down the ramp.  The response was that I had to be kidding because, “There is a hole there that my tires will drop into and I will never get out.”  Then the person quickly added, “There’s on at every ramp I go to.  Someone should do something about it.”

Hoping you keep safe on the lake,

Joe Roach

Lake Freeman is back up!

In fact, both lakes are over an inch above their normal levels.

The Winamac USGS Gauge reads 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) as a flow rate at present.

When the 24-hour daily average flow rate at Winamac is 300 or more, the Tippecanoe River will no longer be in an Abnormal Low Flow (ALF) event.  If this flow rate goes below 300 cfs for a 24-hour period, the river will be back in an ALF event. I tell you this because I want you to know the reality of the present situation created by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This time of the year, between the last of July through the first of October, is the most likely time for a river drought, or low water flow rates, to occur in a river.  A major reason for the low flow rate is most plants are using the most water in their annual cycles.  Trees with their full canopy of leaves are pulling amounts of water from the ground for themselves and the grain they are producing.  If there is more water being used from the ground than is going into the ground, the ground water starts to decrease.  If adequate rain does not replace the ground water, the ground pulls water from ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers.  In the case of a river, instead of all the water that gets into the river flowing down to where it ends, water flows out of the river into the ground through its banks and bottom, resulting in a reduced flow rate down the river.

In short, to keep flow rates up, we need more water running into the river from the watershed and rainfall, than is being pulled into the ground.

Hoping for more rain,

Joe Roach

Journal & Courier News Article on Lake Freeman Water Levels

Lake Freeman water level drop a concern

MONTICELLO, Ind. — The water level in Lake Freeman fell to 6 inches below normal level earlier this week.

As White County moves into mid-August, the Shafer and Freeman Lakes Environmental Conservation Corp. cautioned that dry conditions could lead to further dips in water level.

“Without rain soon, Lake Freeman water levels will drop and that causes us new concerns about human health,” SFLECC President Lee Kreul said in a written statement. Kreul added that standing pools of water left behind by the receding tide could provide breeding areas for mosquitoes.

In a press release, officers of the SFLECC said twice as much water is being pumped out of Lake Freeman as is being pumped in. This keeps river levels higher at the expense of the lake level. The policy complies with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mandate that keeps river water levels higher to protect endangered mussels downriver from Lake Freeman. Local residents have decried the resulting negative economic impact in years past.

The SFLECC did not contest the value of protecting the endangered mussels but argued the Fish and Wildlife Service mandate is not so clear-cut.

“The SFLECC has been fighting this battle with FWS since 2010,” Kreul said in a written statement. “After spending tens of thousands of dollars, and getting the support of hydrologists with the Federal Energy Commission and the state of Indiana, we continue to have the heavy hand of the FWS and the Endangered Species Act threatening our economy, our environment and our lakes during the height of the summer season.”

A preliminary report by the Federal Energy Commission backed up SFLECC’s assertion that the Fish and Wildlife Service methodology is flawed, the statement said. The final version of the report may not be available for another year, according to SFLECC.

The controversy reached a peak in August 2014. That summer, water levels dropped by more than 2½ feet.

A false rumor spread during that time that the entertainment boat the Madam Carroll could not go out, according to owner Tom Heckard. Heckard put the word out on the Madam Carroll Facebook page that the ship still is running.

“They’ve been working on resolving this thing, but the wheels of the federal government turn slowly,” Heckard said.

The 6-inch drop this week won’t stop the Madam Carroll. Heckard said the cruise boat operated when Lake Freeman was more than 2 feet low. But if low water keeps people away from the lake, there would be less business for the entire surrounding economy, Heckard’s business included.

General Manager George Wade can watch the water level from the lakeside patio of Sportsman Inn.

“It’s not severe enough at this area to notice a severe drop,” Wade said. “We’re somewhat fortunate with the location we have.”

Sportsman Inn has a sizable parking lot, which Wade said helps keep customers visiting even when the lake gets low.

“Just because they can get here, doesn’t mean they can get their boat out,” Wade said. “We’re at the mercy of the people who control the water level.”

Northern Indiana Public Service Company operates the dams on Lake Shafer and Lake Freeman. It is NIPSCO’s job to comply with the minimum water level regulations set by the federal government. Right now, they must release water out of Lake Freeman to meet the Fish and Wildlife Service mandate and keep Lake Shafer at the minimum required level. Because of this, more water is pumped out of Lake Freeman than is pumped in from Lake Shafer.

“(We operate) two separate lakes, two separate dams with two separate licenses,” NIPSCO spokesperson Larry Graham said. “We can’t try to adjust flows between the two lakes right now.”

NIPSCO and the Federal Energy Commission are working on developing a permanent operating position to address the water levels in Lake Freeman.

“It could involve a two-lake solution, but right now it’s about how we will operate on Lake Freeman,” Graham said. “We understand the concern of all parties, but we also understand the impact reduced water levels have on residents.”

To the businesses around Lake Freeman, it seems only one short-term fix exists.

“The only thing that’s going to help us is rain,” Wade said. “We can fight and argue and spend money, but it doesn’t seem to do any good.”

Heckard expressed a similar sentiment.

“We need it to rain,” Heckard said. “One inch of rain will soak into the ground really quickly. We need a good sustained rain.” forecasts a chance of showers and thunderstorms starting tonight through next Tuesday. The probability peaks on Saturday with a 90 percent chance of rain.

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