Officials say the Mahoning River would dry up this time of year without water from Berlin Lake.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BERLIN CENTER -- Brown fingers of land point to the middle of Berlin Lake, which is so low it resembles the Mahoning River it flows into rather than the 3,500-acre lake it was during the summer.
The water that remains is devoid of people now. Power boats and jet skis that swarmed across the water during warmer months have been replaced by things that are usually hidden beneath water: tree stumps, rocks and even a tire or two.
Local business owners and officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say low water levels on the lake are a common sight each fall, but they usually don't come so soon.
"I've been here 25 to 26 years and it goes down every year," said Duke Katterheinrich, who owns Dutch Harbor Boat Sales Inc., a marina on the lake's south side below U.S. Route 224.
Season cut short: Katterheinrich said low water cut his season two weeks short this year; he usually allows access to the marina's launch ramp through Oct. 1. His crew closed off the ramp and removed boats from their slips by Sept. 17.
He said he's 95 percent sure that each spring the water will rise again.
Run by corps: Berlin Lake, about 20 miles southwest of Youngstown, is run by the Army Corps as a means of flood control and in hopes of flushing polluted sections of the Mahoning River.
Mark Philips, a hydraulic engineer with the corps, said lake levels were established by the corps when the reservoir was developed in the 1940s -- without such criterion, the Mahoning River would dry up this time of year.
"Today, two-thirds, or 66 percent of the flow going right through the city of Youngstown is flowing right from our reservoirs," said Philips.
Still, the lake is lower than normal. Berlin Lake averages about 1,013.5 feet above mean sea level in October, but the corps records showed it at 1,009.8 feet this week. It was even two feet below normal going back to July 4, when the average for that time of year was 1,023.5 feet but the lake measured out at 1,021.5 feet.
Lack of rain: Both the corps and Katterheinrich blame lack of enough summer rainfall for the lake's status.
Philips said most complaints about low levels come from people with recreation on their minds but said that the lake wasn't originally built for such purposes.
Still, Katterheinrich said he gets irked that his business is partly controlled by governmental efforts to clean up another section of water, especially when he compares the use of the lake to the use of the Mahoning River.
"The typical boat size when I started here was 21 feet, now I got 32-footers out here," said Katterheinrich, whose marina usually stays open 13 hours a day, seven days a week from May to October to handle the high volume of customers.