Work to begin this fall on boat ramp, access road for Crane Lake

Mark Twain National Forest (Potosi-Fredericktown District) Supervisor Sherri Schwenke explains the latest Crane Lake efforts in a public meeting last week in Arcadia.

The good news about Crane Lake is that the engineering studies have concluded the dam is fixable, although the kind of repairs has not yet been determined and that decision might take another year and a half.

In the meantime, the National Forest Service has accepted bids for the construction of a new boat ramp and an emergency access road at a combined cost of approximately $60,000.  Work on those projects should begin this fall.

Forest District Supervisor Sherri Schwenke outlined those plans and more before a crowd of about 50 people who gathered in a meeting room at Thee Abbey Kitchen in Arcadia last Thursday.

Schwenke said in a telephone interview on Monday that she also relied on a team of local advisors for input. That ‘convening team’ included District Ranger Rebecca Ewing, DeNae Gitonga with the UM Extension, Forest Service Recreation Specialist Chris Woods, Bill Bennett and Don Firebaugh.

“I have a decision to make on the dam,” Schwenke said. “What I wanted to know was what is the community’s interest? What are the things that have drawn them there in the past and what will it be that will draw them in the future?

“What they found was not a big surprise – picnicking, trails, a whole variety of recreational aspects.”

She noted that local residents also related some fond memories of the lake, whether it was being taught to fish there for the first time, or teaching their grandchildren to fish there for the first time.

“Folks at the meeting expressed the opinion that those activities could be best enjoyed with the full pool version of the lake,” the supervisor said.

The lake, when at full pool, covers approximately 100 acres. In its draw down state now it covers approximately 75 acres.

“We now have some engineers working on designs based upon the technical side of things, such as the dam being able to handle the maximum probable flow and meet certain seismic requirements,” she explained. 

“Then we have to take into account what it would look like and make sure the price isn’t crazy. At this point our Washington office is supporting us, but if we come back with a price that is too high, they are going to ask if we can produce hydroelectricity, too.

“Since everything we purchase comes from the taxpayers wallet, we want to make sure (the project) makes sense and is reasonable in terms of cost.”

The options for fixing the dam could be an all-earthen structure or a combination of concrete and earthworks.

“We will be doing a dance between the environmental analysis and engineering alternatives,” Schwenke said.  “It could take up to a year and a half to make the decision, but part of that is bringing the community in on the choices.”

The community, she added, is wanting the project to get moving.

“There is definitely a sense of impatience and I appreciate the community’s interest because not every community demonstrates as much interest. I appreciate it because it is their National Forest.”

Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Biologist Mike Reed did some sampling at the lake and reported the fishery was still in as good a condition as it ever was.  In the case of the shellcracker population, it seems to have improved somewhat, probably because of the aquatic plant management the department has done there in the past.

At the meeting there was also a discussion of the formation of a “Friends of Crane Lake” organization, with five or six people signing up that evening.