Corps Of Engineers Explains Releasing Water From Already Low Oklahoma Lakes
SKIATOOK, Oklahoma - Lake levels are are on the minds of tens of thousands of lake goers. Thanks to recent rain, many area lakes are at normal or even above normal levels.
But Skiatook Lake is still low, which prompted a viewer to ask why water is being released from the lake. I went there to get an answer to that good question.
The past few years of little rainfall haven't been good for Skiatook Lake. Grass and weeds are growing up in places that should be covered with water. The popular swim beach is closed. Boaters getting on the water have to be more cautious for hazards.
Matt Neighbors has lived in Skiatook for 50 years and keeps an eye on the water level.
"The lake has just been down for so long and it's a small lake, small watershed, but it's still a very beautiful lake and a good tourist attraction for the city," Neighbors said.
The lake is 13 feet below normal and has been for quite some time. So, Neighbors wants to know why the Corps of Engineers releases water, even with the level low and very little runoff making it into the lake.
"It's a concern that we have this gorgeous lake and this gorgeous area and we're not able to take advantage of it," Neighbors said.
Turns out, it's all about water quality downstream.
Greg Estep, the Chief of Hydrology and Hydraulics for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said they do it, "to help the quality of the water, and for Tulsa to be able to operate their sewage treatment facility."
Estep said the EPA has flow requirements the Corps must meet downstream.
"We have targets that we have to meet and those targets fluctuate during the year," he said.
The City of Tulsa has a permit with the EPA and the state to get releases from Skiatook Lake into Bird Creek, to make sure there's enough water flowing for waste water treatment.
"Right now, we're still at 63 percent full, and would love to have more water," Estep said.
Of course, the best solution is we just get more rain, because Skiatook's watershed is so small.
The Corps of Engineers puts it this way in very simple terms: Nearby Keystone Lake, for every three-gallon milk jug they get of rain, Skiatook Lake would get only a teacup of water.