The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 28, 2013

Canton Lake's level still low

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A lot of people around Canton thought the nearby lake might be recharged by now.

However, Canton Lake still is 13 feet below normal levels and has remained there since Oklahoma City withdrew 30,000 acre-feet of water from in January to help alleviate a potential shortage of drinking water. Oklahoma City owns the rights to the water in Canton Lake.

Kathy Carlson, Army Corps of Engineers project engineer at Canton Lake, said the lake has averaged about 13 feet below normal since the January release.

While rainfall this year has helped push back the lengthy drought, it has not fallen in the drainage basin for the lake.

“The rain usually goes downstream. We have a very narrow drainage basin system,” Carlson said. “Any significant rainfall with runoff is not occurring in our drainage basin above the lake.”

There has been rain, which Carlson said has “greened up the landscape” and helped area farmers, but nothing that runs off in the creeks and streambeds above Canton that would put runoff in the lake.

“That is the main problem,” she said.

While the water level is extremely low, the lake otherwise is in good condition. There were no significant fish kills this summer, Carlson said.

“We were lucky the temperatures favored the fish, and the water is in good shape,” Carlson said. “There have been no pollution issues or stagnation. It’s just a lot smaller lake than we’re used to. There is vegetation growing on the shoreline, which will improve the lake fish habitat when it does come back.”

In the past, the lake has recharged faster after water was taken, Carlson said.

“Many of us thought it would have come back quite a bit by now. In the past, it had bounced back pretty quickly,” she said. “At this rate, it will take a long time.”

One projection is the lake will take two years to come back to its previous level.

“But it’s dependent on rainfall. We could get a torrential rain, even in the spring and bring it right back up,” Carlson said. “We all thought it would be higher by now, but the rain didn’t fall in the right quantity and in the right location.”

Residents of Canton believed Oklahoma City was hasty in taking the 30,000 acre-feet of water — or almost 9.8 billion gallons — before spring rains brought up Lake Hefner’s low levels. An acre foot of water is the amount of water needed to cover one acre one foot deep.

In the spring, the Oklahoma City area received so much water it had to release some from Lake Hefner to prevent flooding.

Alan Cox, a member of Canton Lake Association, which urged Oklahoma City to be cautious, said if the city had waited everyone would be in better shape now. Cox, operates a restaurant near the lake.

Water released from Canton Lake flowed along the North Canadian River and was diverted into Lake Hefner, which received more than 20,000 acre-feet of water. The balance was soaked up by the river bed.

Canton Lake was built for flood control, water supply and irrigation. Later, some secondary purposes were added, including wildlife habitat and recreation. Oklahoma City pays the Corps of Engineers about $200,000 a year, which covers about 25 percent of the costs, for the rights to the water.