NORTH WEBSTER — A long time rumor the Webster Lake Dam controls the water levels on the Barbee Chain of Lakes was brought to this writer’s attention by more than one reader recently. After some research, the verdict is it is very indirectly related and has little affect on water levels on the Barbees.
One of the causes of this question is people underestimate the affect rainfall amounts can have on area lake levels. Likewise, when it is dry, people underestimate the amount of water that can evaporate in sunny weather. Also, water levels tend to rise a day or two after a rain. The other cause is not understanding how the water flows from one lake to another throughout the region.
Here is some background. According to the Webster Lake Conservation Association Dam Committee, the level of Webster Lake water is controlled by an “earthen dam.” It has two spillways equipped with gates to release water as needed. The water level for Webster Lake is set by court order.
Webster Lake Dam is a pass through dam and with good reason. Imagine the devastation below the dam if it broke. Homes, businesses, SR 13 would all be flooded as well as those downstream on the Tippecanoe River including James Lake, Lake Tippecanoe and Oswego Lake. All three of these lakes are viewed by most of the public as Lake Tippecanoe.
The dam spillways allow water to flow over the top of the gates when the lake is above a certain level.
Where does the water flow go? Checking with The Watershed Foundation Executive Director Lyn Crighton, it was ascertained Webster Lake spillway water goes into the Tippecanoe River then to James Lake often called Little Tippy. It continues through Tippecanoe Lake and Oswego Lake where it flows over the “dam” or control structure in Oswego back into the Tippecanoe River.
The Tippecanoe River joins the Wabash River which flows into the Ohio River. From there the water goes into the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Crighton noted, “While Lake Tippecanoe is connected to the Barbee Chain of Lakes by Grassy Creek, the water is moving into Tippy, not the other way around. The water in the Barbees comes from Ridinger Lake and streams in Whitley County. It then flows through Grassy Creek from the Barbees into Lake Tippecanoe.” The conclusion is very little water from Webster Lake ends up in the Barbees because it goes against the flow of the creek.
Much more information on this topic is available by visiting the WCLA website www.lakewebster.net or attending one of its meetings listed on the site. TWF also has vast knowledge on the subject complete with charts and diagrams. Its website is watershedfoundation.org. It has an office inside the North Webster Community Center, 301 N. Main St.
Residents of the Barbee Lakes can get information from the Barbee Lake Property Owners Association at www.barbeelakes.org. Lake Tippecanoe information can be accessed at Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners Association at www.ltpo.org.
Other sources of local information are Barbee Lakes Neighborhood Watch, inkfreenews.com online digital newspaper and The Mail-Journal. All these organizations also have Facebook pages.