That sinking feeling: City performs annual draw down at Silver Lake

City of Dover officials have started a water draw down at the Silver Lake Dam. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Officials with the city of Dover say if community members notice the water level at Silver Lake dwindling over the next week or so not to be concerned.

It’s all a part of what has become an annual draw down of Silver Lake at the recommendation of the Silver Lake Commission.

This year’s draw down of the lake began on Monday and is expected to last through Friday, Oct. 20.

Just as a matter of coincidence, this year’s water draw down also coincides with $265,400 in improvements that are being made to the Silver Lake Dam by Newark-based contractor Guardian Environmental.

“The draw down wasn’t scheduled specifically for the (dam) work that is going on,” said Sharon Duca, Public Works Director/City Engineer for Dover. “We do the draw down annually.

“There’s a valve that opens the sluice gate of the dam, so the staff will take a boat out to the bowels and operate it from there and will monitor the levels on a daily basis.”

The lowering of Silver Lake’s water level will allow lakeside residents to clean up debris and other items on their property.

“City staff opens a valve that allows lake water to flow through the dam downstream to the tidal St. Jones waterway,” said Carolyn Courtney, of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “This action is taken to attempt to lower the level of water in Silver Lake, depending on local rainfall and groundwater levels.

The water draw down at the Silver Lake will help with trash clean up. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We provide this opportunity in part to allow residents to clean the shorelines and perform maintenance activities at or near the shoreline. The city also makes use of this lower lake level to maintain city-owned lakefront land. Letters were mailed to property owners adjacent to the lake as well as Silver Lake-licensed boaters in August to provide for timely notice and to allow for regulated activities to seek appropriate permits.”

Ms. Duca said all efforts will be made to ensure the fish and other water species are not harmed in any manner during the short draw down period.

“One thing I can say is (the water draw down) really is weather dependent,” she said. “The past two years we’ve seen almost a zero net effect in the water level during the draw down because of all of the rain we received during that time.”

Ms. Duca added the water levels are expected to quickly return at the end of the draw down.

“The lake actually has a very large drainage basin going to it so runoff and direct rain recharges the lake,” she said.

Guardian Environmental will be on site for Silver Lake dam maintenance work along the southern tip of the lake, which includes the boat ramp area. Licensed boaters should be aware that the boat ramp will be temporarily closed during this period.

The city hopes the improvements will enhance the safety of the dam and will prove beneficial to the public that utilizes Silver Lake Park.

Guardian Environmental has been contracted by the city to make the improvements, which includes removal of vegetation, repairing the eroded shoreline with rip rap, filling of void space under the boat ramp/rehabilitation of concrete piers, slabs and fish ladder and various tree and tree stump removal.

Ms. Courtney said the city hopes to promote Silver Lake Park even more in the future for events like last month’s Mayor’s Regatta that took place on the lake.

The Parks and Recreation Department is considering promoting lake awareness activities such as a flotilla event, kayak-canoe tours, educational displays and more at Silver Lake.

“The Mayor’s Regatta was definitely a success and plans have started to repeat this event, possibly even next spring,” Ms. Courtney said.

“Silver Lake has always been an important natural and recreational resource for our residents. From the popular slalom water ski and ski jump competitions decades ago to fishing and boating on the lake today; the lake has been a valuable city asset for many generations.

“The surrounding city parks, including Richardson, Silver Lake and Park Drive, continue to provide passive open space, recreation and event space for city residents and visitors.

“Currently, Silver Lake Park is envisioned to be a route for extension of the Senator Bike Trail network.”

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