Depleted Indiana lake poses dangers to boaters

MONTICELLO, Ind. - Boaters are facing more dangers on a depleted northwestern Indiana reservoir because the operator of its dam must keep releasing water to protect riverbeds with an endangered species of mussels.

Water levels at Lake Freeman, which is about 20 miles north of Lafayette, are below normal because of a lack of rain, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Some regular boaters aren't venturing out because of the greater danger posed by underwater hazards such as tree stumps, said Gary Creigh, vice president of sales at Tall Timbers Marina.

"With our gas sales and our service, were going to lose substation money if we don't have the month of August that is usually our biggest and hottest month," Creigh said.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. has had to release more water through the hydroelectric Oakdale Dam at the lake's southern end than has been entering the reservoir, utility company spokesman Nick Meyer told Herald Journal.

"The real issue is that there's just not enough water," he said.

NIPSCO faced a similar situation during the drought-ridden summer of 2012 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered it to maintain water flow into the Tippecanoe River, which has several beds with federally and state endangered mussels.

Boater Dwight Keller said he hit a rock and it damaged his motor.

"It's very dangerous.  If you don't know where you're going you could hurt yourself or other people," Keller said.

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