The shoreline of Lake Freeman at Tall Timbers Marina near Monticello on Tuesday is far below normal, causing problems for boaters and businesses. (Photo: Michael Heinz/Journal & Courier )
The shoreline of Lake Freeman at Tall Timbers Marina near Monticello on Tuesday is far below normal, causing problems for boaters and businesses. (Photo: Michael Heinz/Journal & Courier )
Things were looking no better for Lake Freeman business owners and residents Tuesday as water levels remained well below normal.

As the Journal & Courier reported last week, the water level began dropping rapidly Aug. 1 as NIPSCO began to comply with a federal order to divert lake water into the Tippecanoe River to alleviate pressure on endangered, water-deprived mussels.

On Monday, Lake Freeman reached more than 23 inches below normal. Rain this week brought that number up to 18 inches below the norm by late Tuesday, but that's still not enough for a community that thrives on the business generated by Freeman and Shafer lakes.

Locals wonder: Where do you draw the line between preserving federal- and state-endangered species and crippling the local economy?

"This has got to get stopped," lake resident Judith Bowman said. "There are solutions that can be done to keep these mussels alive without draining all of Lake Freeman. We need to have somebody get on that and find out what the solution will be to help us out because we can't have this happening every two years."

The federal mandate was first issued to NIPSCO — which operates Oakdale Dam — in 2012 during a severe drought. But this year's drop easily trumps 2012's, even though no drought is in sight.

The water drop has translated into layoffs.

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