CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Low water levels and a dry spring and summer are causing the marina at Tygart Lake State Park near Grafton to close for the season this weekend, nearly two months earlier than normal."With no significant rainfall in the forecast, the marina is forced to close," said Jim Browning, the park's assistant superintendent. "The lake will be at 17 feet below summer pool by July 19," he said.By Aug. 2, the lake is expected to dip to 23 feet below its normal summer pool.Already, one launch ramp at the marina is out of service due to low water, and the second ramp is expected to be out of service soon. When the second ramp is no longer usable, boaters will only be able to access the lake by using a ramp at nearby Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area.Marina operator Jeff McLean said this season's closure is the earliest in his 24 years as a concessionaire at the lake. Normally, the marina closes for the season on Sept. 15."The Corps has been letting the minimum amount of water out of the lake; there's just nothing coming in," he said. "We've been losing about six inches of water a day. Nobody likes it, but it's the weather -- there's nothing you can do about it."
The premature closing of Tygart Lake's marina is expected to begin on Friday and be complete by July 19."The docks will be removed first and then the ramps," Browning said. All boats are expected to be out of the marina by Sunday, and the gas docks are expected to be removed no later than July 19.All other recreational, dining and lodging facilities at Tygart Lake State Park will remain open.Tygart Dam and the 10-mile-long, 1,750-acre reservoir it contains, is one of only two West Virginia reservoirs operated and maintained by the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh District announced that prolonged dry weather could cause a number of recreation areas and boat launch facilities at the 15 lakes it manages in five states to close earlier than normal.In the Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington District, which operates the dams and reservoirs with recreational facilities at Bluestone, Beech Fork, Burnsville, East Lynn, R.D. Bailey, Summersville and Sutton lakes in West Virginia, no such predictions are being made.While below average rainfall and water levels "are issues we watch closely, at the present time, we're not experiencing problems," said Huntington District public affairs officer Brian Maka.Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org