Roush Lake reaches capacity

Published June 29, 2015
Rainfall, including remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, caused Roush Lake to reach a near-record pool.

Rainfall, including remnants of Tropical Storm Bill, caused Roush Lake to reach a near-record pool.

The Army Corps of Engineers J.E. Roush Reservoir, Huntington, Indiana, received so much rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill in June, coupled with additional rainfalls, that the project filled to its rim. 

Roush reached its second highest level of 799.41 feet, 50 feet above normal summer pool and second only to the record pool level of 799.98 feet set in 2003. The top of the tainter gates is at 800 feet, and the top of the dam is 805 feet.

Like a full bathtub on the brink of overflowing, water has to be released through Roush Lake’s “drain.” The drain is an engineered system of “sluice gates,” for low to moderate water releases and “tainter gates,” for emergency releases. The gates are operated by the lake staff from the control tower on site. They control the flow of water from the dam. The gates open and close to varying degrees. The goal is to let out just the right amount of water to minimize flooding downstream of the lake and keep the dam operating as it was designed maintaining public safety. 

Throughout the three-week event – as it stands at press time – the Corps of Engineers maintained a safe elevation of the lake. A safe lake elevation is necessary to ensure that the dam remains structurally sound. 

The district’s water management team and the dam and levee safety teams began working 24/7 June 19 keeping in constant communication with the Roush Lake staff to maintain that delicate balance of how much water to release. Lake staff had already begun heightened surveillance walking the dam day and night looking for anything unusual that would require more hands on deck. 
“The Upper Wabash staff has performed excellently during this high water event,” said Scot Dahms, Upper Wabash area manager. “We went on 24-hour shifts and 12-hour shifts immediately following June 16, when we received 4.5 inches.” From June 13 to 21, Roush Lake received 9.7 inches of rain.

As the rain continued to fall in the Upper Wabash basin, releases from the lake were adjusted in order to control the rising pool. Some areas near the lake, predominately farmlands, flooded. Pumps were utilized when locals requested them. 

The district Emergency Operations Center fired up June 17 and went full speed ahead coordinating with local and state emergency management agencies. For example, emergency pumps were requested by the levee sponsor through the county EMA for pumping interior low-lying areas within the leveed area at West Terre Haute, Indiana. The EOC deployed dam and levee safety teams to observe and report conditions on the Roush Dam and at levees downstream along the Wabash River. So far, six teams have deployed to the upper Wabash River Valley. A public phone line was set up where EOC recorded daily lake status messages for the public. Roush, Mississinewa and Salamonie lakes required more scrutiny by lake and district staff. Levee safety teams continue to monitor the levees as the river crests and flows down the Wabash.

Besides the daily lake reports generated by the water management team, Dahms coordinated with local emergency management personnel and issued critical daily reports to the district. 

“It has definitely been a team effort as staff from Mississinewa Lake is helping at both Salamonie Lake and Roush with other staff from Salamonie helping at Roush as well,” Dahms said. “I am extremely proud of the Upper Wabash staff for stepping up to the challenge and fulfilling our flood damage reduction mission.” 

Salamonie Lake, also part of the Upper Wabash River basin, set a record pool of 793.25 feet, more than five feet higher than the previous record set in 1998. 

More rain is forecasted, and the lake staffs and emergency operations center are providing support.