Lack of rainfall has Tappan Lake lagging behind normal lake level

April 25, 2013

As boating season arrives for spring and summer, the current water level at Tappan Lake in Harrison County slowly is rising but remains more than 1.5 feet below normal summer levels and has created concerns about the lake’s condition for recreational activities in 2013.


According to officials from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the situation is temporary. The main boat launch ramp located at the eastern end of the lake off Rt. 250 near the dam is open and accessible for visitors, and the public courtesy docks at the boat launch ramp have been installed and are ready for use. However, MWCD officials said that certain areas of the lake where other boat docks are located may not be accessible by boat for a couple of more weeks as the water levels are returned to normal for the summer season, and boaters should exercise caution when water levels are below normal summer conditions.


The USACE, which operates the dams at the MWCD lakes for flood reduction, recently reported to the MWCD that a lack of rainfall and an increased winter water level “drawdown” requested by the conservancy district to complete significant shoreline stabilization projects have combined to slow the routine rate of refilling the lake to its normal water level for the summer months. While the lake may not reach normal summer water levels by the Memorial Day holiday weekend – May 25-27 – enough progress is anticipated to have occurred by then that visitors probably will not notice, the MWCD said.


“This is definitely an isolated and unusual situation that has occurred because of conditions around Tappan Lake over the winter months, and neither the MWCD nor the USACE believe that it will lead to any type of long-term interruption of normal outdoor recreational activities at the lake,” said Darrin Lautenschleger, MWCD  public affairs administrator. “This is not the first year for an extended drawdown of the lake during the winter, either, as in many years in the past the MWCD has requested similar drawdowns to complete worthwhile projects such as shoreline upgrades and installation of dry fire hydrants to serve residents and businesses in the lake region.”


The Tappan Lake region received only about half of its normal average rainfall amount over this past winter, leading to much less runoff rainwater that helps fill the lake. As it monitored the situation, the USACE reduced its rate of water released from the lake through the dam to the minimum permitted beginning in mid-February.


The USACE posts current levels for Tappan Lake and all of the MWCD lakes online with several updates daily, and the site is accessible via


As part of the flood reduction operation of the system of reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed, the USACE annually conducts a temporary reduction in the depth levels of the permanent lakes behind the dams during the winter months. This reduction, or “drawdown” of the lake, allows for appropriate storage capacity of floodwaters in the reservoirs that can be needed from a combination of rain and melting snow, vegetative control at the reservoirs and ideal conditions for shoreline and maintenance work at the reservoirs by the MWCD. During this winter, the MWCD completed three major shoreline stabilization projects at Tappan Lake that cost more than $250,000 and will protect soil, trees and other vegetation in vulnerable areas around the lake. Tappan Lake, which normally is reduced by 5 feet during the winter months, was reduced by a total of 8 feet during this past winter to accommodate the work.


“We recognize the frustration that many boaters with docks at Tappan Lake and other frequent lake users and visitors may be experiencing with this unusual situation,” Lautenschleger said. “The MWCD also is eager for a return to normal conditions as soon as possible.”


Questions about the Tappan Lake water levels can be directed to the MWCD toll-free at (877) 363-8500, or by sending an e-mail message to


The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving more than $10 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal USACE.


For more information about the MWCD, visit and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.


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