By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript
KINGSTON — More than 300 local residents and visitors packed the Multi-Purpose Center here to address the low water level in Lake Texoma with politicians and audience members taking turns beating up on Texans’ water and power needs as well as federal and state government policies.
“This is not just about water. It’s about you, the community, the businesses,” said Lisa Davis, wildlife biologist, retired USDA law enforcement officer, and deputy director of Restore Lake Texoma State Park.
The massive lake which straddles the Oklahoma-Texas border is down nearly 10 feet below normal levels just as the tourism seating is opening. The level which many say hasn’t happened in decades has closed boat ramps, impacted marinas and lake boathouses. Some say property values have declined and sales taxes will also be reduced.
Some audience members said the ongoing drought was to blame but most believe it is hydropower production at the lake.
“I want to let you know Lake Texoma is still open,” Davis said, reminding folks to patronize local businesses. Tourism is the largest business in the county. Statewide, it is the third largest industry genrating an estimated $6.5 billion in the state.
Speakers, including a state senator and state representative, said the current lake level of 608 could go as low as 590 if Texas continues to run pumps and generate power.
Many speakers and audience members continued to bring up the state’s closing of the state park lodge in Kingston in anticipation of the Pointe Vista resort and condominium development. The lodge, golf course and cabins are gone but nothing has been built in its place. The state has taken the developer to court in recent weeks.
State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, said the governor and state tourism officials have closed or privatived 12 state parks in rural areas. He said rural lawmakers are having to fight to keep their parks open and to keep cheap water from flowing to metropolitan areas.
He claimed tourism is taking money that should go to state parks and spending it on Bricktown projects.
“The drainage canal that they have up there will never be a Lake Texoma or a Mountain Fork River like I have in McCurtain County,” Ellis said.
He said the legal fight over water that was settled in the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t over. Four new permits for water from Texoma and the Washita River, which feeds the lake, are pending.
“When it comes down to it, it’s not our job to take care of Texas. They can take care of their own problems,” Ellis said.
The meeting was the first for the new association. Options include seeking an immediate injunction against pumping in times of drought and changes in state and federal policies regarding the lake.
“In order to fight this, we’re going to have to unite and put money in the till,” Davis said.
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