Eventually, during the drawdown, there will not be any water going over the spillways of the dam; however, the gates under the dam will continue to allow water to flow below the dam. Richland Creek will continue to flow freely throughout the entire process.
The estimated time frame for the lake drawdown is weather-dependent and may be adjusted if it rains or snows. The lake is lowered slowly, in accordance with wildlife regulations, so that the animals that live in and around the lake can adjust accordingly to the smaller amount of water that will remain. Fish, ducks and other wildlife manage well in the shallow waters until the lake refills.
Barring rain in the forecast, the lake will shortly be dry near Highway U.S. 19. At that point, equipment will be brought in to scrape the lake bottom and collect the accumulated silt. Silt deposits come from runoff into the Richland Creek and Factory Branch stream watersheds, which feed into Lake Junaluska. The work conducted will follow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirements.
“In the 2020 drawdown, we took less silt out of the Lake than normal because of weather and the uncertainty surrounding the early days of the coronavirus, which is why we’re drawing the Lake down again in 2021,” said Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska Assembly. “Silt builds up over time from creeks flowing into the lake. The environmental health of the lake is dependent upon these interventions to provide it with an appropriate amount of depth and sustain the ecosystem that results from the lake's existence.”
Beyond silt removal, the lake drawdown offers a window of time in which other repair and maintenance can occur. The drawdown also offers the chance to remove litter that has collected on the shores and bottom of the lake. A community Lake Clean-up Day is being planned to assist in the litter removal process. A date for the clean-up event will be shared once details are confirmed.
The Lake Junaluska walking path will remain open but there will be no boating on the lake until it is restored to a full pool. For more information, contact Lake Junaluska Assembly at 828.452.2881.