OSWEGO — Terry Frank, who is responsible for maintaining the Tippecanoe Lake dam in Oswego, was named this year’s honoree by the Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners Association.
Frank was named as this year’s “Distinguished Lake Citizen of the Year.” He has served 54 years in managing the lake level under the direction of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The objective has been to maintain the lake level, in a fairly narrow range, by opening or closing the dam.
There is no way to control the amount of water flowing into Tippecanoe Lake from the watershed, only maintaining the level with the outflow gate at the dam. The level is critical to lake residents to prevent high water flooding during heavy rains, but at the same time holding back enough water for recreation boating and fishing.
Downstream marine life and waterfowl also need a constant flow, as the Tippecanoe River supports an extensive ecosystem throughout Kosciusko County.
Frank has had his ups and downs with Lake Tippecanoe: more than once, by opening and closing gates the same day. He is one of those unassuming, behind-the-scenes, vigilant individuals who take great pride with the responsibility entrusted. He inherited these responsibilities at age 26, from a “colorful crusty ‘ole neighbor,” who was fed up with the endless advice from well-meaning residents. Said too often by walking a fine line, “or walking a narrow plank,” Frank has worked through rain, sleet, ice and snow to keep the Tippecanoe Lake level in compliance with the IDNR’s rules and regulations. Frank has more than once “taken one for the team” with an unexpected dunk in icy, winter waters while adjusting gates.
He has had his backyard ravaged by heavy equipment while repairs were made to the dam. To his credit, he has rescued a number of pier sections, several pontoon boats, kayaks and canoes, and even a couple of “ornery kids.” He has fascinating stories he can share of his voluntary work.
In a recent interview, Frank explained the importance of lowering the lake level in late fall in anticipation of spring rains. Then, in the spring, the dam is raised for recreational lake use.
A critical part of minimizing flooding on the lake is to keep the river free of logs and debris, especially just south of the dam and throughout Kosciusko County. He feels it’s very important for the property owners association to continue with their river clean-out program each fall.
The legal lake level was set in 1942. A new dam was put in two years ago.
Frank said he believes the lake association should petition DNR to raise the maintenance level of the dam, from 836.40 feet to 836.70 feet above sea level, as an average, per year.
He feels this additional level would make it easier for recreational users to navigate the lake’s channels and shallow shorelines. He is speaking from experience — the experience of receiving numerous calls asking for the level to be adjusted.
Frank said he was “flabbergasted” when he heard the news he was being honored.
“I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked,” Frank said.
The lake honoree committee includes Richard and Marsha Smith, Mark Ennis, Jon Tyler, Ron Chambers and Jeff Thornburgh.