Every February, we await our fate based on a groundhog. The tradition says that if he sees his shadow when he comes out, winter will carry on for six more weeks. However, if it is cloudy, and he doesn’t see his shadow, it means we will be getting an early spring. While I don’t want to even try to predict the weather, I can say that in the Lake Martin area we have been seeing some pretty amazing days lately. And although a critter won’t be popping out to tell us if we will have more time for summer fun, we have something even better-and much more reliable!
Alabama Power has announced that they are extending summer pool on Lake Martin! Yes-this means more time for summer fun on the lake, as the full lake levels will be around for a little over a month. During this time, the lake level will be held as high as possible, up to summer pool, depending on conditions through the six-week period. They were originally slated to start the drawdown of the lake on September 2, but with the substantial amount of rain we saw this summer, they were able to grant this extension-and give us a little more time to get out and do whatever we want-ski, wakeboard, tube, or just cruise the lake!
Although fall starts officially on September 22nd, we still have one more month of fun on Lake Martin, and many people would say this is actually their favorite time to be on the lake. Me-I’m one of those people. I was just out on the lake early one morning a couple of days ago, and the slightly cooler temperatures that morning were a treat. The lake was so peaceful, and I even started to see the hint of a couple of leaves changing to red. Last fall was my first on the lake, and I really enjoyed cruising the lake and seeing the changing of the leaves. It is a magical experience! Anyway, enough about my dreaming of a fall day on the lake. Let’s get back to the technical stuff so you know exactly what is happening and when.
The extension of summer pool levels is called the CFE-and that stands for conditional fall extension. That will remain in effect through October 15, 2021. So what exactly does that mean? Well, remember in the spring when we celebrated Plug Day, and the invisible plug went into the lake to start the process of raising the water levels? This is just the opposite. It’s kind of like pulling the plug to let the water out of the lake-and they will start that on October 15th. Like I did in the spring, I have to spoil the fantasy for you again, because there is not an actual plug. All of the raising and lowering is actually happening at a facility in Birmingham. Sorry-just didn’t want you explaining it like that at a party and getting crazy looks! However, it’s basically the same concept as removing the plug from your bath tub -at least from what you will visually see-because the water level will start to go down. It doesn’t happen all at once though. Once the water level starts to be lowered, it is a very gradual decrease in the water levels. You can keep up with the current water level anytime here. 491 is the full summer pool level, and by December 31st, it will be at 481. It will be left at that until February 17, 2022. At that point, Alabama Power will slowly start raising the water levels back toward full summer pool levels again.
One thing that is important to note is that this year the lake will be lowered an additional 3 feet in order to comply with Alabama Power’s license with FERC to operate Martin Dam and Lake Martin. FERC stands for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The license was renewed back in 2015-and the updated license says that once every six years Alabama Power is required to lower the winter operating water level 3 feet below the normal level of 484 feet. This extra 3 feet of drawdown allows more access to the lakebed, and gives residents a chance to complete construction projects and maintenance on shoreline structures. If you are a resident who will be doing maintenance during the drawdown, make sure you start getting the necessary permits now to give yourself enough time to line up contractors. You can start the permitting process here: apcshorelines.com/permits.
So even though we have another month of summer pool, you may be wondering if you can still enjoy the lake even during winter pool levels. The answer is a whole-hearted YES! It takes time for the lake levels to go all the way down to winter pool levels. However, even once they do, many still enjoy our lake. You will probably just see less bikinis and more anglers though. I will let you in on a little secret-the bass in these parts LOVE winter. Bass fishing is huge on Lake Martin in the winter, both recreationally and competitive. You can always see the upcoming Lake Martin fishing tournaments on our event calendar. I encourage you to go out and still enjoy the lake year-round. If you are out on the lake after the water level starts lowering though, please just be extra careful. As water levels lower, there are more hazards that are closer to the surface. That shoal that was 10 feet deeper during the summer is now right at a level where it could damage your boat. Anytime you are out on the lake-winter or summer- you should always pay attention to the buoys that are placed by Lake Martin Resource Association. They are there to show you where the hazards are located, and are there to keep you safe. You can read more about boating safety tips on Lake Martin here.
As for me, I would like to send a big thank you to Alabama Power for all they do for our area, and for granting us the fall extension! I for one will be soaking in the sun out on the lake for the next month, and hope to see you on the water!