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Nihiser, Joe 2

Lake Services Supervisor Joe Nihiser uses an oar to measure an area where the water levels are 3 to 4 feet high at Lake Decatur.

DECATUR — With Lake Decatur levels continuing their seemingly unending decline, boaters are finding their season has shortened dramatically.

Lake Services Supervisor Joe Nihiser said most boat owners already have taken their boats out of the water for the season or are preparing to do so in the upcoming days.

“It’s shortened the duration of the season, for sure,” Nihiser said of the drought. “Most of the people are taking their boats off. … There’s not enough water that they can leave their boats on their hoist, and they’re getting dry docked.”

All of the city’s boat ramps are closed, except those at Nelson Park. If the lake level continues to drop, those ramps also could be closed.

Nihiser said Lake Patrol employees have been searching the lake for shallower areas to place buoys that warn those boaters who still venture out. For instance, an area in Basin One saw its buoys moved about 300 yards inward of their normal location.

“We’re losing three-quarters of an inch of water every day, and that’s over the entire surface of the lake,” Nihiser said.

The lake level was 611.79 feet above sea level Wednesday morning. Its normal summer level is 614 to 614.5 feet above sea level.

Those who still take their boats out on the water should remain in the middle navigational channel of the lake where it is deeper and should avoid the shoreline where there may be sandbars or other underwater obstacles.

Other types of recreation are faring a little better with the drought. Rick Anderson, director of golf for the Decatur Park District, said its three courses are getting along, even with mandatory water restrictions limiting how much they can be watered.

Two of the courses, Hickory Point and Red Tail Run, receive their water from wells and are not subject to restrictions, Anderson said. Scovill Golf Course receives its water from the city, but Anderson said it collects the water in a retention pond on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for use during the rest of the week.

The courses can use computerized irrigation systems to target the water efficiently, he said.

Scorching temperatures are taking a toll on the courses, however, even if they are watered an appropriate amount.

“Right now, I’d say we’re holding on, but we’re holding on by a fingertip. We’re not down to the fingernail yet,” Anderson said.

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