Deep Creek Lake
Water Quality Studies
Deep Creek Lake is the largest reservoir in Maryland, formed as an impoundment of Deep Creek and its tributaries in Garrett County. The lake has a reported surface area of 3,900 acres with a reported shoreline length of 64.7 miles. The lake was created in 1925 as a reservoir for hydropower generation - still a primary use. The lake provides various recreational opportunities (fishing, swimming, boating), is a drinking water and commercial water supply and provides a scenic setting for permanent and seasonal homeowners and for visitors to the lake and region.
In 2000, the lake and a buffer area around much of the shoreline was purchased by the State of Maryland from Pennsylvania Electric Company. The MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the lake and buffer area as a Natural Resources Management Area (NRMA) in conjunction with the adjoining Deep Creek Lake State Park. Lake management staff work with local and State agencies, the hydroelectric plant owners and an appointed Lake Advisory Board to establish policies and rules to manage the lake as a public amenity while addressing many competing interests.
Water levels in the lake are managed by the hydroelectric plant through an agreement that addresses hydroelectric needs by the plant owners (Brookfield Power), seasonal recreational needs by residents and visitors in the lake and in the Youghiogheny River downstream of the power plant discharge, and low-flow water quality needs in the Youghiogheny River. A recreation plan for the lake guides boating uses and defines vessel limits to limit congestion and encourage safe boating practices.
The lake is a centerpiece for attracting new residents and a significant number of seasonal visitors to Garrett County. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in residential development with some commercial development in the lake watershed. A recent study of possible environmental impacts on the lake due to projected residential growth in the watershed suggested minimal impact to the water quality of the lake (ERM, 2007). This model used a lot of general assumptions about nutrient and sediment loadings to the lake and about water balance in the lake. They estimated that nutrient and sediment impacts to the lake would marginally increase that if the projected number of homes in the lake watershed were to grow to the zoned capacity and the trophic state of the lake would increase slightly.
Although the lake is used for a variety of recreational uses, there are significant water quality problems that have been identified. An advisory recommending that the general public, especially children and women of child-bearing age limit their consumption of small- and largemouth bass and yellow perch taken from the lake because of high mercury levels in these fish. In recognition of the low oxygen levels in the seasonal hypolimnion of the lake, the State added Deep Creek Lake to its list of impaired waters because of excess nutrients (phosphorus). In 2008, units within DNR proposed a comprehensive monitoring plan that would define a water quality basis useful in evaluating future water quality impacts of management options that might be considered in the lake watershed.
The 2009 Deep Creek Lake Water Monitoring Report provides information about the data collected from monitoring activities in the 2009 plan. This water quality monitoring program defined several goals and addressed several monitored components, each of which are evaluated.
Preliminary Sediment Accumulation Study
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
The Deep Creek Project
The Deep Creek Project is a conventional hydroelectric development located on Deep Creek, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, Maryland. The nearest city is Oakland, Maryland, located 8 miles south of the dam. Details about the Deep Creek Station hydroelectric project can be accessed at: http://esm.versar.com/pprp/features/deepcrk/studies.htm#rivertemp