By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Friends of Claytor Lake (FOCL) would like the 2014 lake drawdown to be two feet deeper than usual, but getting it approved could prove to be a costly venture.
Jeff Caldwall, FOCL executive director, said the nonprofit agency requested this year’s drawdown be increased from three feet to five feet to allow Claytor Lake homeowners to tend to projects that need to be accomplished during a drawdown. However, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) says additional mitigation would be required to consider approving a deeper drawdown.
Drawdowns have taken place at the lake for years to allow property owners to do shoreline stabilization, maintenance and cleanup. Appalachian Power Company, which operates the dam, proposed eliminating them during its recent re-licensing due to their impact on the lake’s pistolgrip mussel population.
When the lake level is lowered the mussels become stranded on shore and ultimately die from freezing, drying out or being eaten by predators. A mitigation plan that has volunteers combing the shoreline and returning stranded mussels to the water allowed three-foot drawdowns to continue.
Caldwell said FOCL requested two drawdowns during 2013 due to shoreline and debris issues caused by flooding. At that time, VDGIF denied the second drawdown, but suggested it would consider approving a five-foot drawdown in 2014. Since then, he said, VDGIF has decided additional mitigation would be required to do so.
So what would this additional mitigation entail?
Caldwell said more volunteers would be needed to comb the shoreline than were used last fall; plus, “We would have to find someone to grow pistolgrip mussels to replace the ones that would be killed by the drawdown.”
Finding someone to grow the mussels would be a task in itself, according to Caldwell. He said it would also be costly – in the neighborhood of $20,000.
To gauge whether lake residents and FOCL members are interested in pursuing the five-foot drawdown, a survey has been placed on FOCL’s website, focl.org. Caldwell asks that those impacted by the drawdowns complete the survey.
Survey results will also be provided to VDGIF to help in its decision-making process.
If the deeper drawdown is approved, Caldwell said it will be a “once only and never again” change to the drawdown agreement with VDGIF. Whatever the decision, the drawdown will take place around November.
More than 5,500 mussels were returned to the lake during the Nov. 7-21 drawdown in 2012.