The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 8, 2013

Canton association to ask for drawdown delay

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

CANTON, Okla. — Local residents make a lot of money from Canton Lake. That financial stream could dry up, if Oklahoma City implements a possible water drawdown in the near future.

A public meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. today in Canton Community Center to discuss the drawdown of water. Oklahoma City has rights to the water.

Corps of Engineers facts on Canton Lake | OKC water facts | Canton Lake | Walleye Rodeo      

Some local sources claim the water is already 10 feet below normal, and fear the drawdown of the planned seven feet will destroy the lake. Some locals fear a fish kill and the possible introduction of algae into the lake.

"The focus of the meeting is going to be informative," Canton resident Curtis Hoskins said. "Oklahoma City is calling for a water draw that will bring lake levels to record lows it hasn't seen since almost the 1950s, and it's going to have serious environmental and economic impacts for Canton. We're holding the meeting to inform people about this."

Hoskins said the meeting will include representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Fisheries Department. In addition, he said state Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, and a representative from U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas' office will be in attendance.

"We're just trying to bring more knowledge of the situation, and possibly a water conservation movement to Oklahoma," Hoskins said. "A lot of lakes have contracts that use up the conservation pool which results in an inactive state (for the lake), basically making it useless. So we just want people to realize the repercussions of this and the impact it's going to have."

Further discussion concerning issues brought up by the drawing of water from Lake Canton are to be addressed during the meeting. Those interested in learning more are encouraged to attend.

Hoskins said the meeting will include a question and answer portion for those that want to voice their concerns.

Oklahoma City officials say they are aware of the community problems and will only take the water as a last resort.

Janie Dunn of the Canton Times said the lake association plans to ask for a delay in the drawdown until after the Walleye Rodeo, which members claim is the largest fishing tournament in the state.

“It’s hard on the town, several businesses have gone out of business. There are some new businesses in town, but with the lake down and people not coming it is really a hit to the economy,” Dunn said.

Dunn said a neighborhood adjacent to the lake is referred to as “Little Enid,” but residents have not seen those people very much this year. The lake association has been successful in the past in convincing Oklahoma City to postpone taking water during sensitive times.

The state of Oklahoma has been in the midst of a drought for three years, and some people expect it to continue for a number of years.

“We don’t think the lake can handle it,” Dunn said.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board sources have told Canton residents they need the water to replace drinking water. However, Dunn said Oklahoma City has not imposed any conservation practices.

“They are not conserving. All the lakes are low, and it’s hard on people here. People are passionate about the lake,” Dunn said.

Oklahoma City officials say they will take the water as a last resort, using it as drinking water for the city. Debbie Ragan, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Utilities Department, said officials are mindful of the condition of the lake and also believe recreation is important.

Oklahoma City has the rights to the lake water and has had those rights since the 1950s, Ragan said. She said the condition of the lake is a consideration, and officials have talked with the U.S. Corps of Engineers about taking the water.

“It’s something we have a right to do,” Ragan said. “We’ve been waiting for rain; it’s in the forecast. Our main focus is to supply drinking water,” Ragan said. “We’ll know more next week what our plans are.”

The water from the lake is raw water. Ragan said it will probably go to Lake Hefner, then pumped into the Hefner treatment facility. Recreation is suffering at all lakes and is bad statewide this year, she said.

Oklahoma City has put off taking the water as long as possible, she said.

The OKC metro promotes water conservation on a voluntary basis. Officials promoted conservative use of water programs, using water wisely, especially outdoors. They partner with the Oklahoma State University Extension Service to help with programs that will encourage wise water use, and also how to maintain yards and in landscaping by using drought resistant plants. The programs promoted how to live in a drought situation.

“We always encourage wise water use, especially in the summer, using drought resistant plants. We are aware of the problem, and it is a last resort. Canton is a federal lake, but for water supply, flood control and irrigation,” Ragan said.

The Woodward News contributed to this report.