CLEAR LAKE - According to two lake experts, there may be a silver lining to the low water conditions on Clear Lake.

On Friday, Clear Lake measured 28.56 inches below crest at the weir, which is the point of reference for lake levels on Clear Lake.

That’s nearly half a inch lower than the 28.08 inches reported on Tuesday and more than six inches lower than the level reported on Aug. 17.

That may sound grim as boaters grapple with how to get their boats into the water with several hundred feet of dry shoreline lake bed, but experts say dry cycles are good for the lake.

“It is healthy for a lake to go through water level cycles like this,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist ScottGrummer.

“It isn’t healthy for it to be at or over crest 100 percent of the time. Nobody wants to see low water but there is some lake benefit to it.”

David Knoll, director of the Clear Lake Enhancement and Restoration (CLEAR) project, said low water allows sunlight farther into the lake and helps encourage the growth of beneficial aquatic vegetation which helps to gobble up nutrients such as phosphorus.

The vegetation also helps to keep waves from stirring up the sediment on the bottom of the lake and damaging water clarity.

“In some ways it is kind of like hitting the reset button on the lake as far as aquatic vegetation goes. It does help improve the density and diversity of aquatic vegetation,” Knoll said.

Grummer said the negatives to the low water levels involves problems for humans rather than the lake.

“People are having more difficulty getting their docks and hoists removed for the fall and also there are navigation hazards including the shallowness of some of the reef areas which need to be avoided,” Grummer said.

While the lake sits more than two feet below crest today, that’s still far from the record low of 46.20 inches set on Nov. 21, 1989.

Jeff Nicholas of Clear Lake grew up on North Shore Drive. The dock at his parents’ home in the 1100 block of North Shore Drive stretches more than 300 feet from shore right now.

“I don’t care how low the lake is. I am putting my dock out as far as it needs to be to get to the water,” Nicholas said.

He doesn’t get too upset about these conditions.

“Soon it will be full again,” Nicholas said. “When I say soon, I don’t know exactly what soon means. Every time this happens people say, ‘oh, it will never come back. It will never come back’ and every time it always comes back.”

He remembers the low water of 1989.

“We put our dock together with some neighbors (down the street) and we had 512 feet of dock,” Nicholas said. “I figured it was a half a mile walk for me to get out of my bed , go down the street and get to the end of the dock. It was almost a half a mile.”

Grummer said there are some concerns going into the winter with low water levels.

“The health of the fish in years like this is an issue when you have more than two foot of the surface gone off of it and then you put a thick layer of ice in the winter on top of it. You lose quite a volume of water out there,” Grummer said.

“There’s always concerns about winter mortality due to low dissolved oxygen, but we have the benefit of lake aeration in Clear Lake.”

What will it take for the lake to bounce back?

Following the low lake levels recorded in 1989, Paul Fredriksen, chief operator for the city Water Department, said Clear Lake came up 50 inches in 365 days.

It all depends on Mother Nature.

“A person doesn’t have to look back too many years. 2008 was a real wet year. People can remember times when there were 6 to 10 inches of water spilling over the spillway for several months,” Grummer said.

“Weather patterns that would duplicate 2008 would take a real short time for the lake to respond. If it continues with the below-average precipitation we’ve been having, it will take more time.”

(9) comments

Todd Blodgett
Todd Blodgett

It's also a good time to CLEAN UP the lake! My dad and I spent 3 hrs picking up pop cans, bottles, and other trash from the lake's newly-exposed area on his property, and I've already spent several hrs removing junk from the exposed area over here at my place. It's times like this when the Boy Scouts are appreciated, as we used to clean up lakes, etc. If we've EVER needed mandatory WORKFARE for welfare recipients, NOW'S the time. Shame on Libs for causing senior citizens to have to work so hard.

JB Johnson of Britt
JB Johnson of Britt

Obama said "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal." several years ago.
Well, if he can keep an ocean from rising it should not be much of a problem for him to bring little ol Clear Lake back up a couple of feet.


The government should force poor people to clean your lakefront property? Really?

JB Johnson of Britt
JB Johnson of Britt

I think Todd is talking about the dry lakebed, which belongs to the public. Most property lines are a few feet from normal shoreline. Have you been over by State Park and seen the 150 feet of dry lakebed? Load up the current guest of county jails, give them a pail and rake and put them to work.


It amazing that the folks that comment on this site consistently are able to turn a story about the low water level of Clear Lake into some sort of political argument.

Todd it should be more like shame on those folks who can afford to go boating on that lake for throwing their trash overboard, and shame on you for thinking that welfare recipients should clean up after them.

JB Johnson of Britt
JB Johnson of Britt

it a joke, lighten up

Todd Blodgett
Todd Blodgett

JB is correct: the lake belongs to EVERYONE, and when able-bodied people collect welfare, taxpayers have every right to expect work in return. Boaters who toss trash overboard should be fined/ticketed, etc - and they are. But what with all the trash I've helped to clean up lately on both shores of CL, needing removal, it's FAIR to say shame on Libs who OPPOSE this type of Workfare. Inmates and prisoners should also help with the clean-up; we FEED them, and there's no such thing as a FREE lunch.


Anybody that pollutes nature is guilty of a crime, natures if not state or local. No way should anyone else be force to pick up after these slobs. The polluters should be the ones walking the shoreline with a plastic bag.

Todd Blodgett
Todd Blodgett

'JH', of course polluters should be fined. But as taxpayers are forced to support able-bodied, unemployed welfare recipients, HOW is it wrong to require the ABLE-BODIED ones (and I'm NOT talking about those receiving unemployment benefits here) to earn their keep, and do something for those whose taxes make possible their existence? Such folks would learn the value of hard work, the importance of being on time and doing a good job, and that NOTHING is life is free, and $$ doesn't grow on trees.

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