Lake shrinking with low river level

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 16, 1999

With low Mississippi River levels this fall, the levee at Butler Lake at St. Catherine Creek Wildlife Refuge has given way, said Refuge Manager Jim Hall.

The lake which normally encompasses 650 acres now only covers 200 acres, Hall said.

&uot;It’s an unusual set of circumstances,&uot; he said.

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This summer, the Mississippi River dropped dramatically as a result of dry conditions. Dropping from 41.8 feet on April 1 to a low of 6.9 feet on Dec. 2.

A favored spot for local fishermen, Hall has counted up to 140 boats in Butler Lake before lunch on a Memorial Day weekend.

When the Mississippi River level dropped below normal levels this year, Hall said, the low supply of water caused the level to drop in Butler Lake, exposing a &uot;natural earthen plug&uot; of about seven feet deep and 30 feet wide.

Hall is waiting to hear the outcome of a grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Agency for rip rap material to rebuild that portion of the levee.

Adams County Supervisor Sammy Cauthen brought the problem to the supervisors meeting Dec. 6.

&uot;The refuge doesn’t have enough equipment to get the job done,&uot; Cauthen said.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted Dec. 6 to provide men and equipment to help the refuge to rebuild that levee. &uot;It should only take four to five days to get it done once we have the material to fill,&uot;&160;Hall said.

Regardless of whether the grant comes through, Hall said the work would need to be done.

&uot;We’ll need to get it done before mid-January,&uot; he said, before the Mississippi River rises in the spring.

Even though the lake is only 18 inches at its deepest part right now, Hall says both water and fish will be replenished in the spring when the river &uot;comes back in.&uot;

&uot;The Mississippi River is a funny thing,&uot; he said.