Drought Causing Low Oklahoma Lake Levels

Sunday, September 18th 2011, 5:29 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

KEYSTONE LAKE, Oklahoma -- The overnight storm may have been a change of pace but it hasn't done anything to improve drought conditions in the state.

The Corps of Engineers says the dry and hot weather is causing problems across Oklahoma, and it may get worse before it gets better. 

Water has been in short supply at Oklahoma lakes this year.

"Water would be up on the concrete right here," said Colonel Michael Teague of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He says evidence is everywhere at Keystone Lake - a courtesy dock that should be floating, instead it's been beached, a boat ramp that has been closed, and a ramp that should be covered in water.

"Keystone, right now, is about four feet low, and Keystone is in better shape than a lot of our lakes," Col. Teague said.

At Skiatook Lake, for example, the water is down 11 feet. At Tenkiller Lake it's down 6 feet, and that's causing major problems for a trout fishery below the dam.

Colonel Teague says unless the state gets some a large amount of rainfall he expects it to get even worse.

9/13/2011 Related Story: Nationwide Drought Affecting Food Prices In Oklahoma

"It's going to take more than just the good rainstorm that we got last night," he said. "It's going to probably take seven or eight of those."

Besides low water, another problem has been blue-green algae. It all but shut down Grand Lake for several days this summer.

Colonel Teague says blue-green algae is typical in the lakes, but there wasn't any rain to flush it downstream.

"The drought exacerbated it, just made it much worse," Teague said.

The Corps says one big problem when the water gets low likes this is that rocks or tree branches normally covered by the water become exposed, creating a serious hazard for boaters.

But not everyone seems concerned. Roy Wilson and Billy Halstead spend a lot of time at Keystone Lake.

Both say the low water level is something they've seen before.

"It's part of the natural cycles; it's how you replenish the lake," said Tulsa resident Billy Halstead. "It's a good opportunity to get growth, builds up the shoreline, and then when the lake comes up it's a new lease on life."