The bad news is that Lake Vernon’s level is still not low enough to inspect possible damage to its dam. Even "badder" news is it’s going to be a while before the project is complete. 

Drawdown of the lake began in mid-September as concerns were raised in the wake of water-level stress created by Tropical Storm Harvey rainfall earlier in the month.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Development in Baton Rouge, which since the 1980’s has had authority over and responsibility for dams and levees in the state, said the drawdown time table is rain-dependent.

Early this week, the level was about six feet below normal pool stage for the 4,250-acre lake, he said. That is about the level reached during the regular drawdown schedule, when the lake bed is dewatered to help control aquatic vegetation.

Expectations are, he said, that another six feet need to be exposed in order to ascertain what, if anything, is wrong in the area of a “slide” in the dam.

Under normal rainfall condition, DOTD says, about 4 inches per day can be drained from the lake with its two gates open. Those 50-year-old gates were last refurbished nine years ago.

The dam, just a little under a mile long, creates an impoundment that has almost 50 miles of shoreline. Average depth, according to the Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries, is 23 feet and maximum depth is about 53 feet.

The DOTD spokesman said speculation about how long the process might take is just that at this point.

The duration of the drawdown, he noted, depends on the extent of the problem, if in fact there is one.

Barring declaration of an emergency, the process of repair includes funding appropriation, engineering, bid solicitation and contract award.