PINETOP-LAKESIDE – Thanks to the generous gift of the Salter Foundation this year, as soon as the town of Pinetop-Lakeside receives a Quit Claim Deed on 107.88 acres for the developed footprint of Woodland Lake Park from the U.S. Forest Service, the town will officially own the park.
The park includes the path around the lake, the ramadas, the ballfields and the playground but not the water in the lake. The water is owned by the Show Low/Pinetop Woodland Irrigation Company who, through a license agreement with the town, allows the town to use the lake for recreational and wildlife purposes.
The irrigation company is a non-profit irrigation water company that was formed by early settlers around 1874. It is set up to deliver irrigation water to their customers through a series of water storage reservoirs, canals and dams of which the lake is a part. The town entered into a license agreement with the irrigation company in December 2018 in which they pay $3,000 a month for three years, “to use Woodland Lake for recreational and wildlife, including fishing, which includes the water stored in the portion of the lake that is under the high-water mark, the dam and the outlet works.”
An annual inspection is conducted each year by the Army Corp of Engineers to ensure the dams are operated and maintained properly. Once every five years a more detailed inspection is conducted and that is expected to occur in September, this year.
According to Pinetop-Lakeside’s July 30 “Talk of the Town,” the town newsletter, the head gate at Woodland Lake has been vandalized twice and though the irrigation company hired a local diver to assess the damage and repair it, it was not able to be be repaired. The irrigation company has been monitoring the water levels in the lake and will soon begin the needed repairs. In order to do so, and for the dam to be able to pass the September inspection, the lake will need to be completely drained.
Once the lake is drained, they will take advantage of that opportunity to deepen the lake for increased capacity. To do so, a permit must be issued by the Army Corp of Engineers. At that time, they will also remove cattails that are rapidly spreading.
According to the town’s Public Works Department, over the years they have coordinated with the irrigation company, Arizona Game and Fish and the Forest Service to remove cattails from the lake.
Cattails are common plants in lakes, ponds, and other wetland areas that can be a benefit to creating habitat for small fish, waterfowl and the bugs that they eat. Cattails are part of a healthy ecosystem in that they assist in slowing water flow and help trap sediment and silt. They can also be a detriment, affecting oxygen levels and decreasing the capacity for water storage. As seen at Woodland Lake, they grow rapidly and often block the shorelines and views.
Once this work is complete, the lake will be refilled by rainfall and snowmelt. The town said “it is possible for one good winter to completely refill the lake.”
With the lake being a major recreational spot for locals and summer visitors, the town is hopeful the work will be completed by the end of the summer.