Silver Lake was in bad shape this past summer when water levels were low and an algae bloom gave it a green tint akin to antifreeze. But autumn's rainfall and cooler temperatures were the remedy. It just took a little patience.
City of Dover officials closed the metal entrance gate to Silver Lake Park Tuesday morning when the St. Jones River watershed in the city flooded because of the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall Monday evening.
The park was closed Tuesday morning because water came up over the bank and submerged part of the parking area, Director of Public Affairs and Emergency Management Kay Dietz-Sass said.
"We opted to put the caution tape up because closed and locked gates were not keeping people out," Dietz-Sass said. "People parked outside the locked gates and walked around them. It was strictly for safety until the water went back down."
Between early Wednesday morning and mid afternoon the waters of Silver Lake had receded about 3 feet off the banks, Dietz-Sass said. Therefore, city officials decided to then reopen the park.
Dover officials opened the dam between Silver Lake and the St. Jones River prior to Hurricane Sandy's landfall as a proactive measure to alleviate flooding that was bound to occur in the lake, Dietz-Sass said.
The flooding at Silver Lake was nowhere near the level it was with Hurricane Irene in August 2011, Dietz-Sass said. But the proactive move to open up the spillway was a good move nonetheless, she said.
More good news for Silver Lake was the fact that its water levels had returned to optimum levels even before Sandy hit, Dietz-Sass said. That was in marked contrast to late July when it was plagued by low water levels and the ensuing algae bloom that gave Silver Lake a green tint, similar to antifreeze.
Silver Lake was depleted when the city tried to remedy a fish kill that occurred between July 17 and early July 18, City Manger Scott Koenig told the Dover Post this past summer. A city worker wanted to provide more oxygen to the fish below the spillway by opening the valve to allow aerated water from Silver Lake to spill into the St. Jones River and prevent another fish kill, Koenig said.
Despite the well intentions, it may have caused more problems than it solved, Koenig said. And it drew the ire of a few residents that live around Silver Lake.
As a result, the Dover Department of Public Works worked with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control to monitor the St. Jones watershed's environmental health.
At the time, there was discussion about pumping chlorinated water from the water utility into the lake as a possible remedy. But that idea was put to rest because of the possible effect on the lake's ecosystem and the strain it would have put on the water supply given the traditional mid summer drought of Delaware.
Koenig said significant rainfall, including those from the hurricane season, and the cooler temperatures of autumn would be Silver Lake's best bet. In his estimation, the lake would be full when water was spilling over the entire spillway, not just the valve, into the lower St. Jones. Sure enough, the lake's water levels slowly had recovered by the end of summer, he said.
"Obviously, the recent significant rainfall has more than fully recovered the lake levels," Koenig said. "The blue green algae is a problem we will experience again in the future due to the overall water quality issues associated with the depth of the lake as well as summer temperatures."
As for now, Silver Lake looks pretty good, Dietz-Sass said. And it's open again.