Monday, May 13, 2024

Dam to Dam May 2024 (Unofficial)

I've been boating on The Lake of the Ozarks since I was a toddler with my parents, but I have never made the long trip up the Osage arm to Truman Dam and back. An official Dam to Dam run is the full round trip from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam and back in a single day. This is roughly 188 miles. Our trip on this day was only from Truman to Bagnell, but it was still epic.

My son purchased a new-to-me pontoon boat from Angler's Port Marine in Warsaw, and we launched from Drake Harbor in Warsaw at the 91-92 mile marker. First, a quick plug for Angler's Port. Everyone was great to work with and did everything they could to help make our trip home a successful one. We used Navionics for navigation at their suggestion and it worked great. Second, Warsaw's launch facilities at Drake Harbor are excellent and the town itself looks great. I haven't been in this area in I don't know how long, but very happy to see it thriving.

So we launched, fired up the navigation app and got underway. Saturday May 11th was a beautiful day to be on the water! However, Truman was dumping heavily (about 50,000 cfs) with The Lake levels at 658.11 and outflow matching Truman. With all this flow, there was a good amount of debris in the water, whole trees in fact. Surprisingly, while Lake depth was good, we still had to follow the main channel, which unlike established navigable rivers, does not have channel markers. This is where your navigation app with depth information is important. At this stage of The Lake, the Osage Arm is basically a river, with characteristics resembling it's pre-Bagnell Dam days. In low water situations, there are some areas that may be impassable. This is fishing country, and with a 28ft pontoon, you need something like Navionics with accurate depth and channel information to keep from grounding. I know folks run up in go-fast boats, but now that I've been on that section, I can say that the video of the 40ft Outer Limits making that run at 100mph, would be nail biting to watch now (video no longer available?).

89-ish mile marker?

Gas is not particularly hard to find, your first opportunity from Truman is the Oar House at the 82mm. Buck Naked at the 77mm. Hiawatha Beach Resort at the 67mm and Holiday Hills Marina at the 68mm. Of these four I can only confirm the Oar House was serving up gas. We stopped at Rebel Harbor Marina at the 60mm. A s-l-o-w idle into the area as the water depth in the cove was often only two feet deep. We were told by locals that a week ago, it would have been impossible to get the big pontoon in there. Thanks to the helpful staff, we gassed up and were on our way again.

Rebel Harbor looking across the channel

Beyond the 60mm, things start looking more and more like The Lake of the Ozarks, and the need to run the channel becomes not as critical as depth more reliably runs 20-45ft deep. Further downriver, around the 47mm you begin to see some of the more popular tourist spots, like Big Dick's Halfway Inn, Captain Ron's at the Hurricane Deck bridge and on into the confluence of the Osage and Niangua arms at the 31mm.

We were going to just park the boat at our condo at Grand Glaize, but the family wanted to take their new boat for a ride so we brought it all the way to the 8mm. Being so close, we just had to finish it off at Bagnell to make the claim.  Dam to Dam.

All in all it was a great trip and I highly recommend the run if you can!

Friday, April 19, 2024

Unmanned Drones On The Lake

 I'm going to have to give Lake Expo a lot of credit for making this blog a little more obsolete. They're starting to do some decent journalism and looking into things before most of us are really aware. Good work. So I hope I give all due credit for the inspiration of this post.

To that point there is the story today about Unmanned Surface Vehicles being spotted around The Lake.

USV - Lake Expo by Tegan Pasley

In short, a company named Simple Unmanned LLC is doing a bathymetric survey of The Lake using unmanned drones. Note: Sorry, Tegan, but your suggestion that drones would be a good idea for Door Dash is not really of yet. Does anyone remember Domino's pizza delivery on The Lake?

Anyway, Tegan reports that Water Patrol and Ameren are aware and "monitoring" the drone activity, but I want to talk about Ameren on this matter. They need to do more than just monitor, they need to act on the data. Somewhat for themselves, but mostly for property owners like me.

Sedimentation map of a boat ramp launch. Source Simple Unmanned LLC

The Lake is filling in. Despite the decades of development and subsequent improvements such as concrete swales and other erosion prevention measures, sedimentation of The Lake continues. I live at the back of a cove and can honestly say I've lost 2 feet of depth since the 70s. We have dredged (permitted of course, and only within the footprint of the slip!) prior to the ban on dredging in 2007, but overall it's a losing battle anyway. Eventually, my property will no longer be waterfront and there doesn't seem to be a lot I can do about it. It sucks for my property, but what does it mean for Ameren?

Does Ameren care if The Lake fills in? Of course, but not in anyone's lifetime. Sedimentation near the shoreline can go on for centuries without affecting the performance of the dam as a power generator. The turbines only care about "head height", and with over 600 billion gallons of water, volume is never really a problem. Unless.

Heavy sedimentation of The Lake means overall volume is reduced. Volume management is the basis for Ameren's tight-assed control of the shoreline. The volume of water stored behind a dam represents it's ability to maintain energy production in periods of changing conditions. While The Lake is fed by many sources, constituting nearly 10,000 cubic feet per second flow at all times, prolonged and severe drought would have an impact. Meaning in times of extended drought, the reservoir could drain faster than it is replenished. Maintaining The Lake's ability to retain as much water as possible mediates such issues. 

Think of it this way. If the contour of the Osage River valley had been deeper and steeper, before it was flooded by Bagnell, then the main channel of The Lake would be less wide than it is, and there would be far few fewer coves, but the dam itself would still be able to generate as much power. The only difference is that it would be far more susceptible to rainfall, closer to a "run of the river" style waterwheel power generation. See my lengthy article on how Bagnell Dam works. In other terms, Tam Sauk Dam, a completely different type of dam, used more as a battery than a generator, can produce more power than Bagnell using a fraction of the amount of water. It just can't do it for very long.

As a power generating system, Ameren isn't too worried about sedimentation, but somebody is or Simple Unmanned would not have been contracted to perform this very expensive work. I wanted to do something similar with side-scan sonar systems, but didn't really see the value in a full detailed bathymetric data set for The Lake. It would be fascinating though and I do hope the results of this survey, and the data will be shared with the public (or me!).

Monday, April 01, 2024

March 2024 Lake Levels and Flow

 I was not going to do these monthly summaries any longer, but with March's rare "double-dip" draw down low, I thought it was worth showing. The second, low at the end of the month was only 2.28 inches above the lowest level set on March 5th. 653.92 and 654.11 respectively, with April starting even lower by about an inch.

Drawdown 2024 - Who Says It's Over?

I swear, sometime I think Ameren views this blog and deliberately changes things up to make me look bad. But then again, I've been told to get over myself time and time again.

Looks like a rare double dip drawdown season. Just as I declared maximum low levels had been reached on the heel of returning higher levels, Ameren goes and drops it right back down near the low of the year.

To be fair, the spring monsoon hasn't exactly shown up as expected either and lake levels are likely being kept low in anticipation that the rains will come.

As it stands now, we are one and half feet below the fifteen year average depth for this time of year.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Water Patrol on PWCs - AHAHAHAHAH

Representative Dr. Lisa Thomas (123rd District: which pretty much covers the lake area) introduced House Bill 2668 last month for the establishment of MO-POWR, a pretentious acronym for "Missouri Patrol on Wave Runners".  The purpose of which is for "establishing a law enforcement and first responder personal watercraft patrol..." to  "...promote water and boating safety on lakes having more than one thousand one hundred miles of shoreline." Hmm. Any other lakes in Missouri with over 1100 miles of shoreline? Unsurprisingly, the Lake of the Ozarks is the targeted body of water.

The bill goes on to define what a "personal watercraft" is, who the stakeholders of the task force are, training requirements, and funding.

The tasks of the patrol are spelled out as:

  1. Enforce state laws and regulations
  2. Deter unsafe and unlawful activities
  3. Provide first responder services
  4. Promote water and boating safety
  5. Provide public education directed toward recreational activities 

Okay, so that's the nuts and bolts of it.

Let's start with the obvious. The uniform of any law enforcement agency is intended to give a sense of professionalism and legitimacy. There is nothing dignified about riding a wet bike. Especially for a law enforcement officer that must wear a uniform. They'll simply look ridiculous. And what are you going to do with their necessary equipment, guns, radios, etc?

The practical limitations of using PWCs for law enforcement are pretty obvious, but let's break it down a bit more.

There is no room for support equipment for a first responder, let alone for tactical support of a serious law enforcement incident.

The idea of using a PWC assumes they are faster than a boat. Have you ever ridden a wetbike on the main channel during a busy holiday weekend? I have, and I can tell you that making any speed worthy of a first responder is nearly impossible, and by the time you've gone more than two miles, you're exhausted. Chasing down a go-fast boat? Puh-lease. About the only areas these things would be useful for is during events like the boat races or writing tickets in coves to other wetbikes for safety violations.

No, PWCs are completely impractical for law enforcement, and really only good for first responders such as beach lifeguards. But, they do present a show of force. A presence. Will boaters pay heed to restrictions on making wakes near docks if one of these little fellas is around? Probably, but beyond that and event patrols, they would be pretty useless. 

Most importantly though, I think the poor patrolman assigned to them will find that their days are very long, injuries frequent, and effectiveness dubious at best. I shudder to think of the number of workmen's compensation cases that will rise against the state.

A better idea would be to reform the State Police to once again have a separate Water Patrol division, with enough equipment, money, and training to properly patrol the Greatest Lake in the World.

Maybe throw a hydrofoil in for good measure if you really want to get down the lake in a hurry! Here's something (not a hydrofoil) that will get some respect on the water.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Hwy 70 Promises - Kingdom City Exit Isn't A Priority

Without going into details or timelines on how we got here, I'm going to start this post by saying I applaud the expansion of Hwy 70 in Missouri, it is way overdue. Every Missourian has wanted Hwy 70 expanded for a very long time but simply were not willing to pay for it by approving any new gas tax. We did that once, decades ago and the promise was not delivered. Fool me once... So every time a gas tax increase shows up on the ballot from time time, with and without the promise of enhancing Hwy 70, voters would always say no. The vote has never been close.

But our Republican lawmakers have long established that the voters wishes are not to be taken seriously. By effectively getting away with NOT expanding Medicaid, despite a majority vote by the population to do so, they quickly followed by passing an increase to the gas tax themselves.

Republicans, as their name implies, never tire of stating that the U.S. is a Republic, not a Democracy. While it is true we are a Republic (representative style governments) we are ALSO a Democracy. The two terms are NOT mutually exclusive. Whenever you show up at the polls and vote on whether or not to increase your local taxes, or some proposition for change, a simple majority is all that is needed to decide. The only representation required for a ballot initiatives such as this is the VOTER themselves and THAT is pure Democracy. Think of it this way, all Republics are Democracies, but not all Democracies are Republics (just ask a Canadian).

But no matter how we got here, the Highway 70 expansion to three lanes and more is happening so let's start taking a look at what is being done actually, and more importantly, what is NOT being done. MODOT has a new "flyover" video rendering of currently approved improvements to Hwy 70 and ....oh look, it's all in Columbia. Oh, and look, some of the work is not even on Hwy 70, but nearby interchanges.

I understand the 70 interchanges in Columbia very much needs to be a part of the overall improvements but what about Kingdom City, Exit 148? This exit is THE interchange for Hwy 54 getting to the Lake of the Ozarks from the east. On major holidays traffic is often bad enough that one of the two lanes of Hwy 70 is backed up for MILES. Are we saving this desperate problem area for last or something? The video shows MODOT is proposing to add a third lane starting at Kingdom City to Columbia.

It appears our collective woes of traveling to the Lake from St. Louis will continue for years to come. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

"Lakefront Empire" Review S1 E1

"The Midwest Coast"

 I just watched the first episode of HGTV's "Lakefront Empire". While I'm pleased the producers seem to be avoiding the same formula as shows that feature more interpersonal drama then home listings, I was quite disappointed in how The Lake area was being presented. Yes, I use capital letters when referring to The Lake, because it is THE BEST LAKE IN THE WORLD.

The show follows the somewhat tired formula of interviewing buyers and realtors as they search for the home of their dreams here at the Lake of the Ozarks, but the producers seem to lack any real sense of what makes The Lake so special. This is clear in their choice of realtors and the homes showcased, both realtors and homes lacked any charm whatsoever. I've have seen many, many homes over the decades and what was shown in the first episode, ranging from $500K to $2M were homes I would not have given a second glance. Not they they were bad homes! Far from it, but they were not especially appealing, charming, or unique. In my opinion The Lake has a plethora of more interesting and exciting homes to choose from at any given time. I actually felt sorry for the folks about to drop $2 million on a home that was simply...blah.

That's the good part of this review.

Here's the bad part.

What the hell? I saw a real estate agent telling potential buyers that mentioned having parties in their new home about "everybody using" in Party Cove, and practically in the same breath as telling them she spent 15 years in federal prison? I watched a second realtor revealing a drunken past and had to come "crawling" back to his family for a job? THESE are the realtors that the producers chose to showcase homes at The Lake? I'm sorry but if I was a potential Lake Ozark home buyer , I would have been turned off completely.

And did I hear anything more than the tired old "1100 miles of shoreline, more than the coast of California" to tell the world how special our lake really is? There was bragging about how nearly every home comes with a dock, but was anything said about the quality of that 1100 mile shoreline or how it affects their docks and the value of a home? How about the uniqueness of The Lake that allows us to have restaurants and bars accessible by water? From what I saw, you might as well have been looking at lakefront property on Lake Hamilton AR, or some Corps of Engineers lake.

Dis-Honorable mention for using segue shots of the lake that make it look like boaters will have it all to themselves on any given day. But now I'm just being mean.

Hopefully future episodes will do better.