Low lake level floats some businesses, sinks others - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Low lake level floats some businesses, sinks others

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The water level of Lake Champlain still sits near record lows, and dropped lower this year than it has in about a decade. While the drop is causing struggles for many business, others are thriving.

Recent rains raised the lake level by about six inches, but some marinas are still too shallow for bigger boats.

As the boating season pulls up anchor, the Shelburne Shipyard stores about 10 - 12 boats a day. That's typical for this time of year, but work is expected to last much longer than usual. Demand for services spiked this year as the water dropped.

From a high-water mark along the deck of the Shelburne Shipyard last spring, the water level has fallen nine feet to where it lies currently.

Shelburne Shipyard Operations Director Bruce Hartshorn says the water level could drop another foot before it posed a challenge there. But, marinas around Lake Champlain aren't as deep.

While others lose clients, this shipyard booms. "We're seeing it especially in sail boats that have that 5-7 or 8 feet deep draft keel," said Hartshorn.

A bump in bumps with the bottom is increasing repair bills at the marina as well. "It's been an unprecedented number of damages," Hartshorn said.

Boater John Macey said friends sunk more money then usual into fixes this year. He avoids shallow spots though, and calls this the best - and longest - boating season in recent memory. "Most of the sunny days have been on the weekend which is great," he added.

Those who worry about conditions under water say less is more. "We've had a banner year," said Waterfront Diving Center Co-owner Jonathan Eddy.

He says a lack of rain produces less sediment and better visibility for SCUBA divers. Lower levels make historic shipwrecks more accessible and boat scrapes lead to more purchases from salvage divers. "So, there's been some business as a result of the low water and other people's misfortune," he said.

Those reaping the reward though say they're more concerned with lake-based industries as a whole than maintaining higher individual profits. "The lake needs more water and we would welcome more," said Hartshorn.

 He says he hopes for a snowy winter, otherwise he says the low water problems will be back next spring.

May of last year marked the highest recorded water level ever for lake Champlain: 103.27 feet above mean sea level. That figure dropped to a recent low of just less than 94' this September before rebounding a bit. The lowest level ever recorded - 92.61' - came in December of 1908.

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