The Norman Transcript

December 13, 2012

Low lake levels continue through winter drought

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Lake Thunderbird’s pool elevation currently is about seven feet below the recommended conservation pool, which is only 55 percent full at this time.

With summer’s high temperatures gone and the excessive need for water to keep gardens and yards alive, the drought has fallen to the background of many people’s minds, but the lake level continues to drop.

In 2006, the lake hit a record low, evaporating down to nine feet below the conservation pool. That summer, lakeside businesses serving recreational users such as Thunderbird Riding Stables and Clear Bay Cafe suffered. With levels that low, getting boats in and out of the water was difficult and many people stayed away.

“If things remain as they are, we’ll hit that lower level probably before summer,” COMCD District Manager Randy Worden said.

A bill that would authorize COMCD to import and store water from other sources into Lake Thunderbird passed out of the House committee on Natural Resources in March. The legislation also has been passed out of committee in the Senate.

The proposed legislation, HR 3263, was authored by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and would allow COMCD to tap into the Atoka line that runs near Lake Thunderbird. This raw water source would be used to help raise water levels in Lake Thunderbird during drought conditions.

Cole introduced HR 3263 in October 2011 to allow Lake Thunderbird to acquire and store water from outside the Bureau of Reclamation system. The Atoka line has served Oklahoma City for several decades. Any cost associated with this action would be paid for by the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is carrying the bill in the Senate.

“We are working hard to get this passed,” said Jared Young, Inhofe’s communications director. “Unfortunately, it has been delayed by inside-Senate politics. Sen. Inhofe is hopeful that it can be passed before the end of this Congress.”

Worden will talk to the city council next week during the 5:30 p.m. Tuesday study session on Lake Thunderbird augmentation, the TMDL, as well as water conservation issues.

“We’re still in a drought,” Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. While rationing is not in play right now and the city’s wells are helping provide a share of the drinking water needed, residents are still encouraged to conserve water where possible.

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

 

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