Boaters may have to go slightly farther down Capital Region launch ramps this Memorial Day weekend thanks to a drier than average spring.
“I hope it rains all night every night until Memorial Day,” said Fred Finn, general manager of Point Breeze Marina on Saratoga Lake. “In the last few days I’ve had people tell me they bottomed out at the public access just across the road.”
He said Thursday the water level rose from 2 feet below normal to just 10 inches below normal thanks to Wednesday night’s rains.
This water, he said, was desperately needed. A few weeks ago the shallowest part of his 250-slip marina, usually between 2 and 3 feet deep, was just mud flats.
Now the deepest slips are just deep enough for fin-keel sailboats but still shallower than normal. Finn blamed a hydroelectric dam on Fish Creek for the missing water but admitted that May started off dry.
“Saratoga is basically a natural lake,” said Hudson River–Black River Regulating District Executive Director Mike Clark. “So it operates on a tighter band of fluctuation.”
Since Saratoga Lake was around before someone decided to build a dam, he said its levels have more to do with rain and snowmelt than the dam.
Clark doesn’t operate the dam downstream from Saratoga Lake, but as the head of a team of engineers charged with keeping the manmade Great Sacandaga Lake at proper levels, the subject is on his mind.
Currently the Sacandaga is just a few inches below target, despite the dry season. May wasn’t as rainy as it should have been, according to Clark, and the winter snowpack was only 70 percent of normal across the watershed.
He and his team regulate water levels using the Conklingville Dam on the northeast corner of the lake, basing decisions on 80 years of watershed data.
In dry months the district has to fulfill downstream commitments, like releasing a daily six-hour flow for whitewater paddlers, while keeping as much water as possible in the lake.
“We’re trying to balance things to save water for the lake,” he said.
Given that the lake fluctuates about 20 feet between winter and spring, a few inches away from normal isn’t bad.
“Most people have floating docks,” he said, “so it shouldn’t be a problem, and the weekend boaters won’t even notice.”
By Memorial Day, he said, the lake should be right on target at its highest projected level.
Lake George is doing even a bit better than the Sacandaga. Ken Graven, whose family has owned and operated the Gilchrist Marina for 70 years, said the lake is just an inch or two lower than it should be.
“I have a stick at the end of my dock that I keep an eye on,” he said. “We’re not doing that bad.”
Graven’s 50-boat marina is just a few feet deep, so he’s accustomed to stressful springs watching the water gauge. This year, though, things are fine and he’s ready for a busy weekend.
Like Clark at the Sacandaga, he expects the few inches to be taken up by last-minute rain.
“I just hope it stops before Memorial Day,” he said.