People gathered at the Durant High School Friday evening to learn about the drought effects and protection efforts around Lake Texoma.
The Lake Texoma Association held a public meeting with representatives from the LTA, Army Corps of Engineers and Southwestern Power Administration present to speak to the crowd.
Corps of Engineers Tulsa District Commander Col. Richard Pratt told the crowd that while the area is in a drought, he does not want to scare people.
“We’ve been in a drought before. We’ll be in a drought again,” said Pratt, explaining this is no cause for panic, but the situation is being monitored.
Pratt explained how the water is allowed to be used for such purposes as flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power and recreation and at what levels these uses begin to be restricted.
According to Pratt, Lake Texoma is currently at stage two drought level with lake levels six feet below what is ideal.
At this level, the Corps begins to monitor and restrict water usage.
Representing SWPA, Fritha Ohlson explained how the drought is affecting hydroelectric use and the measures being taken to reduce the impact on the lake.
Ohlson said SWPA has been working in drought mode since January 2011. This means reducing their services.
While in this mode, SWPA customers must use other means to obtain electricity to make up for what SWPA cannot provide.
Ohlson said SWPA customers in Denison spent more than $5,000,000 in 2013 to replace the hydropower usually produced.
Lake Texoma Association Executive Director Shelly Morgan said while we are not in crisis mode right now, we could easily get there.
Morgan told listeners that it is not enough to hope for rain and hope people and companies will practice conservation.
She said the laws governing the water usage need to be changed. She called for the public’s help to show congress that a change is wanted by the people.
“Our laws aren’t protecting us,” said Morgan.
She proposes an amendment be made to Public Law 100-71 which governs the usage of Lake Texoma waters or the placement of a new federal legislation to add drought control as a key Lake Texoma project purpose.
She asked all listeners to support a petition by the LTA to change Public Law 100-71 by going to www.change.org and signing the petition.
One message both the Corps of Engineers and the LTA said they want to relay is that the lake is open for recreational use.
Both organizations have been experiencing issues with rumors driving tourists away from the lake due to low lake levels but both assured listeners that the lake is open and tourism is needed.
- Jessica Breger can be reached at (580) 924-4388 ext. 116 or on Twitter @jbreger_news