The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

January 25, 2013

Officials, Army engineers eye Canton Lake

ENID, Okla. — Army Corps of Engineers officials soon will meet with Oklahoma City officials to discuss the situation with Canton Lake and any possible withdrawal of water.

Several members of the Canton Lake Association met Wednesday with Corps officials in Tulsa to discuss the situation.

Oklahoma City officials have announced they plan to take 30,000 acre-feet of water from the lake to use as drinking water. They have not announced any timetable for the withdrawal, but the possibility scares Canton Lake supporters, because the lake level is down so much because of the prolonged drought affecting western Oklahoma.

Earl Groves, Corps chief of operations for lakes in Oklahoma, said Thursday Corps officials agreed to meet with representatives of the Oklahoma City Water Resources Trust to discuss the situation, including the possibility of waiting until spring for the release.

That would give time for spring rains to possibly alleviate the situation, he said.

Canton Lake Association members urged that possibility.

“The fact (is) that Lake Hefner, the sole water source for northwest Oklahoma City, contains close to 40,000 acre-feet of water, which could possibly provide enough water to the city for a few months to get us into spring,” CLA member Mark Fuqua said on a blog posted after Wednesday’s meeting. “We would hope spring rains could refill Hefner and Overholser. This could prevent them needing to draw water from Canton at this time and in the near future.”

The blog can be found online at canton lakeassn.blogspot.com.

Canton Lake supporters are worried any withdrawal of water will adversely affect the lake, causing such things as fish kills, algae blooms and ending recreational activities at the lake.

The lake was created for flood control, water supply and irrigation. Later, secondary purposes were included that added wildlife habitat and recreation. Oklahoma City pays the Corps $200,000 a year for the water, which covers about 25 percent of the costs.

CLA members, though, say Oklahoma City officials haven’t done enough to conserve water.

“ ... Oklahoma City has not acted as good stewards of the water they have received in the past, and have been negligent, perhaps irresponsible, in properly planning for the longer-term water demands for an ever-growing population in the metro area,” Fuqua wrote on his blog post.

Two area lawmakers have echoed those sentiments.

In a press release, state Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, said conservation efforts announced by Oklahoma City officials recently are “too little, too late.”

“Everyone knows we are in a prolonged drought, and cutting back on outdoor watering in the dead of winter really isn’t a solution,” Marlatt said. “Oklahoma City’s ultimate plan is a huge draw on Canton Lake, the main recreational lake in western Oklahoma, but this is essentially going to kill our lake. Legally, they have the right to do it. But it doesn’t make it morally right. Oklahoma City needs to do everything it possibly can to avoid this draw down for as long as possible.”

The economic effects of taking water from Canton Lake would be widespread for the Canton area, he said.

“Once they draw the water, recreational boating will be nonexistent. The remaining water will not reach a single boat ramp,” Marlatt said. “People who come to boat and fish will stop coming, and it’s going to impact local economies — restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and cabin rentals will see all those dollars go away.

“That’s going to have a chain reaction in our local economy.”

State Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said it is critical for Oklahoma City to view taking water from Canton Lake as a last resort, to be avoided as long as possible.

He also urged the metro to look at more aggressive ways to limit water use.

“At best, this is only a temporary fix for Oklahoma City,” Marlatt said. “But once they take this water from Canton Lake, that’s it — the water will be gone, and people in both parts of the state are going to pay the price for Oklahoma City not doing more to conserve this precious resource.”

Groves said the best thing is for all parties to “get the smartest people together” and “make sure we have thought this all through.”

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