Corps To Increase Arkansas River Levels For Great Raft Race

Tuesday, September 1st 2015, 11:02 pm
By: Emory Bryan

With the return of the Great Raft Race just around the corner, there’s hardly any water in the river.

The Corps of Engineers turned off the tap last weekend but said they've got a plan to get water back in the river in time for the raft race.

From Sand Springs to Tulsa, the river is down to dirt in some places, with a meandering stream that wouldn't work for a raft race.

It's what organizers had feared would happen naturally, but in this case it's man made.

Micah Buchholz with the Army Corps of Engineers said, "It was just the first opportunity we've had to bring the river down so that work could occur, and, especially, before the raft race."

Since the first of May, water stretched from bank to bank on the Arkansas - it would have been higher if not for the holding power of Keystone Dam.

Last Friday night, the Army Corps shut off the flow to accommodate at least five work projects downstream, all of which have been hampered by high water.

One of those projects was critical - the boat ramp where the rafts will launch on Labor Day.

It sat unneeded for twenty years, so the Sand Springs Parks Department needed low flow to get in there and cut out trees and fill in holes to make it useable.

"We reclaimed the overgrowth on each side of it, and repaired the riprap, bring some gravel in to fix the holes and low places on each side to, pretty much bring it back to what it should be," said Joe Medlin with the Sand Springs Parks Department.

The Corps plans to restart the flow Wednesday afternoon at 11,000 cubic feet per second; that's what's needed for the race.

It will fill the river with plenty of clearance for boats and help lower Keystone Lake, which is still three feet higher than normal.

Buchholz said, "The upstream reservoirs from Keystone still have some water in their flood pools, and we're trying to get those down, and we're getting close to normal pools right now."

After the raft race, the Corps will make the decision about whether to keep the flow going; it depends on whether or not there's rain in the next week.