The water level of Newfound Lake is controlled, for the most part, by a dam on West Shore Road that is owned by the State of New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services (NHDES). The dam marks the beginning of the Newfound River and is used to adjust the lake’s water level and provide the desired riverflow.
Various stakeholders in the region have differing interests and needs when it comes to lake level and river flow, so it is a balancing act to satisfy them all.
- Beach owners and homeowners prefer lower levels over the summer to expose swimming beaches and at other times to access/repair shoreline structures
- Boaters prefer higher and steady water levels for navigation and access (launching).
- Fisheries: Native species that spawn in late fall over the winter require high and steady water levels for protection from freezing and loss of habitat.
- Aquatic Plants: Extremes in lake levels foster growth of opportunistic or invasive species.
- Water Quality: Extreme draw downs accelerate delta formation and delivery of nutrients from tributaries into the lake.
- Power Generation prefers steady and moderate flows in the Newfound River to optimize output.
- Everyone is concerned about flooding by heavy rains, which raise the lake level at the rate of roughly 14 inches for every inch of rainfall, faster than the dam can let it out.
For the most part, NHDES has established a seasonal schedule that, in a normal year, has the lake level at its highest point on June 1, gradually dropping through the summer and maintained at a lower level through the winter to minimize ice damage. Spring runoff can then raise the level up to its maximum. Extreme weather patterns and abnormal years can overcome the dam’s capacity to deliver targeted lake levels at all times. (Click here for a more detailed explanation.)
NLRA is trying to prevent any environmental degradation that may result from unplanned deviations from the targeted lake level. The Watershed Master Plan utilizes grants for public land projects and landowner education to reduce sedimentation both directly into the lake and its many tributaries.