An unusually dry season has caused water in the Youghiogheny Lake to drop five feet below the normal level, forcing some recreational areas to close sooner than expected. The Mill Run Recreational Area is expected to close this week, while the Tub Run Camping Area will more than likely close next week.
Werner Loehlein, Chief of Water Management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Pittsburgh region, said minimal snowfall this past year has been a contributing factor to the low water levels.
"In the springtime, we typically save some of that water to release during the normally dry times of the year — the late summer, early fall. Now this particular year, we had a very mild winter with little or no snowpack," Loehlein said.
So far, the lake has not met the requirements for water flow out of the dam because there is not enough water coming from the inflow side. The main goal for the Corps now is to augment low-flow, or provide more water while the levels are low.
Loehlein said the summer has also had little rain. "We had a very, very dry June — the ninth driest June of record, going back to the 1870s. We only had nine days last month in Pittsburgh where it actually rained, and I think only one of those days did it go over a quarter of an inch, so it was very dry," Loehlein said.
He added water enthusiasts need to be aware of the dangers low water levels pose. "The boaters should exercise caution, because underwater hazards are going to be a little closer to the surface than what they're used to seeing," Loehlein said.
Despite the lower water conditions this year, other recreational areas, such as the Outflow Camping Area and Ohiopyle State Park will remain open as their water levels are fine.