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It’s Shoreline Improvement Season

Winter water drawdown allows shoreline access

Published: 11.09.2023

If you haven’t yet noticed, the water level for Lake Martin is roughly 4.5 feet short of being full. Don’t panic—this is not due to lack of rain, or a leak in the dam. The lower lake level is by design. In fact, lake levels this fall were maintained at higher levels than usual up to mid-October. At roughly the 15th of October, Alabama Power Company (APCO) began their scheduled winter drawdown to aid in flood control in the normal rainy winter season.

This scheduled drawdown has a positive benefit for lake property owners. As the lake level goes down, the shoreline and lakebed become accessible for needed repairs and enhancements to seawalls and shoreline. Without this winter season, it would be very difficult to install seawalls or perform a dredging project. Even with the lake at this level, shoreline enhancements are difficult. Fortunately, the lake will drop another 2.5 feet by mid-December, providing even more access space. (To see the Drawdown Schedule, click here then click on the “About Lake Levels” tab.)

The lake level stays at its lowest ebb until the last week of February each year, and APCO, according to their operating license, begins the process of refilling the lake aided by spring rains. One might say, “April showers bring May boaters.” For sure, the winter lake season allows enhancements, but we advise you to book your contractor early. In fact, if you wait much longer, it might be too late to schedule projects like seawalls and dredging, so we thought we would give you a few tips.

Seawall tips

Seawalls, which protect the shoreline from erosion and provide a defined water’s edge, come in many forms from riprap or wood to stained concrete or stacked boulder walls. Different shoreline situations, architectural requirements, and cost to install drive each project. Locally quarried gray granite riprap is the least expensive and most used seawall type on the lake. Riprap is usually easier to install since it does not require extensive labor to place the rocks. It is a long-lasting and easy-to-repair style of wall.

The hand-stacked moss-rock boulder wall is arguably the most attractive type of seawall on the lake. This rock is quarried in North Alabama and shipped in by local contractors. The most-used type is what is called “two-man” boulders because it requires two able-bodied masons, with the aid of a “bobcat”-style tractor, to place each stone. This wall is popular because it blends in with the land and the water and has a lovely look when revealed in the winter months.

Concrete seawalls are very popular since the finished product is durable and needs few repairs. A recent innovation to seawall installation has recently been introduced to the lake which has drastically reduced installation time. Prior to this innovation, contractors needed weeks to install metal form panels along the shoreline prior to pouring the concrete and then more days/weeks to take down the metal form panels. The new innovation is to use pre-made concrete panels, produced by Alexander City-based Cemwall, along the shoreline before pouring concrete.

The preparation time to install the form panels has been reduced substantially, and since the Cemwall panels are integrated into the finished seawall, the time required to take down form panels and clean up the site is also reduced. In the short time the lake level is at low pool, this is a great option.

Dredging tips

For property owners who have limited water depth at the end of their piers during summer months, APCO is willing to review each situation to determine if a dredge is feasible. A dredge is not guaranteed nor is an unlimited about of lakebed allowed to be removed to aid in creating more water depth. A careful on-site review by a representative of the APCO Shoreline Management of each situation is required.

The representative will want to look at the lakebed prior to making a final determination on the feasibility of a dredge request. That means the water needs to recede enough to allow for a visual inspection. Every situation is unique, and some situations require review from environmentalists at APCO or potentially a governmental agency, like the Corps of Engineers. In any event, now is the time to begin that process.

APCO does have an application process and guidelines available. You may access their website for that information by clicking here.

We hope the above tips help you with options. Each situation and property is different. If you have been looking for a lake place and need some help assessing your shoreline situation, we recommend you reach out to one of our Sales Executives. They deal with these and many other lake issues daily and can be a great resource in finding the right place. They can be reached at 256.215.7011, or you can reach out to them via e-mail.

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