News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 25, 2013

Fowler Park beach closing

Lake will be lowered so spillway can be checked for possible repair

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A swimming beach at Fowler Park will close Monday and will remain closed for at least one to two weeks, but could be closed much longer.

A water spillway, which is used to control the level of the 23-acre Ruble Lake in the park, may need repair, said Adam Grossman, assistant superintendent of the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department.

The park department, along with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Water, has been working on a plan to lower the level of the lake, initially by two feet, Grossman said. The lake is about 12 feet deep by the spillway.

“What happens, when the spillway gate is open, it creates an undertow,” as water drains into a spillway pipe, said Park Superintendent Kara Kish. That makes the lake unsafe for swimmers, she said.

The metal gate spillway, constructed in 1956, has shown signs of erosion, Grossman said.

“We have had inspections done, but we are not sure if there is a problem,” he said. “On the outlet side, there is erosion and washed-out places. It is hard to speculate what is going on.

“It could be just because the dam was topped there in 2008. The emergency spillway is right beside it. In 2008, when that topped, we had to come back in with some fill and redo some things. It could be the soil is just loose and rain water washed it away,” Grossman said.

“Once we draw down the lake, we will be able to see around the inlet structure on the lake side to make sure that nothing is going on there. Then we can take appropriate steps to make sure all else is secure and hopefully bring up the lake by spring,” Grossman said.

Park officials will determine in the next week or two if swimming will be allowed again at the lake this summer or be closed for the remainder of the season, Grossman said.

The draining had been planned for September, but the DNR’s Division of Water has recommended the spillway be immediately inspected, Grossman said.

Draining the lake is also being done in preparation for a hydraulic study this fall by the Division of Water. That study will cost $30,000 to $35,000. That expense could be reduced if the park department obtains assistance from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the form of a senior student study, Grossman said.

The detailed study will determine if the lake’s dam needs repair or maintenance.

“The study will give us a ton of information,” Grossman said, such as how many acres of land contribute to the watershed of the lake, its flow capacity and flow rate. Soil borings will help determine the integrity of the dam.

The study is required, Grossman said, for the dam to meet new state/federal standards for water structures. The dam, under new standards, must be able to withstand 13 inches of rain in six hours, he said.

If the dam needs extensive repairs, the park department will seek grants for that work, Grossman said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@