Water Laps Top Of Lake Texoma Spillway

Friday, July 6th 2007, 3:01 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Water threatened to overflow from swollen Lake Texoma into a spillway Friday, while rivers in northeastern Oklahoma continued to recede, revealing millions of dollars in flood damage to homes and businesses.

Also, federal and state environmental officials raced to soak up the remnants of a 42,000-gallon crude oil spill in the Verdigris River as they completed work on an 1,800-foot absorbent boom north of Lake Oologah, a major drinking water source for Tulsa.

Lake Texoma, which straddles the border between Oklahoma and Texas along the Red River near Durant, stood about one inch below the top of a 640-foot-high concrete spillway, said Ross Adkins, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Tulsa District.

``It's lapping over the spillway now,'' Adkins said. The lake, with a normal level of 619 feet, is expected to crest about six inches higher than the spillway on Monday, when up to 3,000 cubic feet of water a second will be diverted into the Red River, Adkins said.

The Corps is already pumping an estimated 27,000 cubic feet per second of water into the Red River to help steady the lake's level. Water levels in the river have fallen following heavy rains that swelled it and other streams.

``The downstream conditions are now permitting us to start putting water in,'' Adkins said. Lake Texoma is fed by a watershed that stretches across southern Oklahoma and into the Texas Panhandle.

The Corps said there is no danger to an earthen dam near the spillway that stands 30 feet higher at 670 feet. The spillway, which has been used three times since construction was completed in 1944, was designed to divert water when lake levels rise.

``It's performing exactly as it was designed to do,'' Adkins said.

Flood warnings remained in effect for the Arkansas River at Muskogee, the Caney River at Collinsville and other streams in northeastern Oklahoma that have spilled their banks following weeks of heavy rain in Kansas and northern Oklahoma.

Mike Spurgeon, city manager in Miami, said floodwaters from the Neosho River were receding from homes and businesses that were immersed on Monday and Tuesday. Water levels were falling about one inch an hour on Friday and should dissipate completely on Saturday, Spurgeon said.

``There's still water in homes. There are some areas where people can start going back in,'' Spurgeon said.

Flooding also canceled classes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College where water entered several buildings including the maintenance department, art museum, a gymnasium and the football field house as well as dormitories, a cafeteria and campus apartments, campus officials said.

Extensive flooding also occurred on the college's softball, baseball and football fields.

``The college took a tremendous hit,'' Spurgeon said. The two-year college said classes are expected to resume on Monday.

Floodwaters have damaged between 500 and 600 structures in the Ottawa County city, Spurgeon said. Damage assessments are under way but preliminary estimates are in the millions of dollars, he said.

The National Weather Service said a flood warning remained in effect for the Neosho River near Commerce until Sunday. The river stood at 24.7 feet early Friday. Flood stage is 15 feet.

A flood warning is also in effect for the Verdigris River near Lenapah until Saturday evening. Forecasters said the river stood at 34.3 feet early Friday. Flood stage is 30 feet.

The Environmental Protection Agency was installing the last 900-foot span of an 1,800-foot boom across the Verdigris to soak up the remnants of a 42,000-gallon crude oil spill at a refinery in Coffeyville, Kan., on Sunday, said EPA spokesman Dave Bary.

The boom, installed along the river near U.S. Highway 60 a few miles north of Lake Oologah, is equipped with an absorbent material to soak up oil on the river's surface, Bary said.

``There is of course a visible sheen on the river,'' Bary said. The spill also left an oily smell and oil deposits are visible along the banks of the Verdigris near South Coffeyville, Okla., just south of the Kansas border.

Bary said the EPA is working with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to keep oil out of Lake Oologah, a primary drinking water source for Tulsa.

Bob Brownwood, manager of Tulsa's water supply, said the city pulls about half of its water from the lake. Brownwood said the city's water intake pipes are on the opposite side of the lake from the Verdigris' ingress and the chance the oil will affect Tulsa's water were very remote.

The EPA has taken water samples from the area but a preliminary analysis will not be available until Monday or Tuesday.