Press-Republican

July 14, 2013

Lake Champlain receding from record July levels

By WILSON RING
Associated Press

---- — MONTPELIER, Vt. — Lake Champlain continued to recede Friday from near-flood levels never before seen in midsummer that have left some areas along the shoreline under water and hazards like floating logs in the middle of the lake, officials say.

But the higher water levels have also had some benefits because in some areas prone to boat groundings, the deeper water is keeping those obstacles safely submerged, officials said.

At the Burlington ferry docks, only one lane for boarding vehicles was completely free of water on Friday, but the water wasn’t deep, and crews were managing to load the ferries without any problems, said Margaret Campbell, the assistant operations manager for the Lake Champlain Transportation Company, which runs three ferry routes between Vermont and New York.

“You don’t typically have water like this in July,” she said.

DAMAGING FLOODS

Flood stage for Lake Champlain is considered to be 100 feet above sea level. Last week, the lake reached a record July level of about 99.6 feet, a height usually seen at the peak of the spring snowmelt in April or May. The high lake levels come after a rainy spring was followed by an unprecedented rainy stretch that caused a series of damaging flash floods across New York and Vermont.

The breakwater that protects Burlington’s waterfront from the lake’s rough waters remained about a foot above the high-water level on Friday, holding at bay one threat the near-flood level waters could pose.

The lake level “would have to rise another foot to submerge that,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Hess, of the Burlington station.

FEWER GROUNDINGS

There are some fixed piers around the lake that were submerged and could be a hazard to boaters unfamiliar with the lake, but Hess said he hadn’t heard of any problems.

The high water has also continued to flush trees, logs and other large sticks into the lake, especially from the Winooski River, usually a spring problem that resurfaced after the heavy rains of recent weeks, Hess said.

Coast Guard crews and good Samaritans have been pulling those obstacles to shore.

“It helps in other areas. There are lots of positives,” Hess said. “Last year, we had a very high number of vessel groundings.”

When the lake level was at 94 or 95 feet, many vessels were hitting submerged rocks or other normally covered obstacles, Hess said.

“We’ve had a significant drop in vessel groundings,” he said.