Rainfall causes lake levels to rise

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Although Flat Creek, Roaring River and other local waterways have receded since the flooding that occurred last week, lake levels have risen, and many area docks, marinas and campgrounds have been affected by the rising waters.

"We have been physically letting out cables every four hours since last Wednesday," said Denver Dixon, Big M Marina owner. "We were changing cables up until yesterday."

Greg Oller, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Table Rock Lake park ranger, anticipated that local lake levels would crest somewhere around 930 feet on Saturday morning, which would have been barely lower than the record level for the lake.

"I received an e-mail at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning that indicated that the lake had crested at 928.9 feet," said Dixon.

Even though lake levels did not reach those anticipated by the Corps, the water rose enough to flood many recreational areas and several local campgrounds remain under water.

"The water levels aren't really impacting adjacent landowners," said Oller, "but many people who have private boat docks have been required to adjust them as the water rises. Commercial marinas have been required to move multiple docks to higher ground."

Rising waters have covered the walkway that leads to the Big M Marina. With the walk under water, marina employees have been forced to access the marina by boat. Dixon said the last time he saw the water this high was in 1993.

"We are just afloat," said Dixon. "The marina is still afloat just as it always is, but the water is up 15 feet above normal lake levels and the end of the walkway that we use to access the marina doesn't float so it is under water.

"The boats and the marina are all safe though," said Dixon. "Many of the campgrounds here are underwater."

When waters began to rise, Dixon took the precautionary steps to disconnect all utilities connected to the marina, which will remain closed until waters recede.

"Assuming we don't get any more large rains, the Corps has forecasted that the lake will reach 920 feet on April 4," said Dixon. "That will be nine feet below what it's at now and the walkway is at 922 feet, so we will be able to access the marina by land.

"We won't have a full parking lot at that time though," said Dixon. "Water levels will need to be at 915 feet for the full parking lot to come out of the water."

When waters recede and Dixon is able to access the walkway, he expects to find some damage to the walk as well as the utility lines located beneath the walk. Those damages could effect the marina's opening, which was originally scheduled for last weekend.

"The target date to open the (Dock-N-Eat) restaurant on weekends was Easter weekend, and April 1 was when it was scheduled to open seven days a week," said Dixon. "We missed last weekend and will miss the upcoming weekend, but hopefully if the Corps continues to draw the water down, we will open the restaurant and full-service marina by April 4 or 5."

As Corps officials monitor Table Rock Lake they will also be watching water levels at Beaver Lake, James River, Kings River and Roaring River, which all let water into Table Rock Lake.

"Beaver Lake discontinued dumping at 7 a.m. this morning," Oller said on March 20.

That helped ease pressure on Table Rock Lake, which was letting 5,000 cubic feet per second out at the gate and 15,000 cubic feet per second through hydro power.

"That is a total of 20,000 cubic feet per second," said Oller. "We use a temper release so that we don't flood Taneycomo or Bull Shoals."

Oller said that Corps engineers use a plan that was developed several years ago to determine the amount of water that can be let out at each lake.

"The plan takes each area lake into account to provide a guide on how much water to release at any given time," said Oller. "We plan to continue to release the same amount of water as we are now until April 8."

When waters recede in April, Oller anticipates the Corps will need to clean up a lot of areas that have been under water.

"We will have damages to recreation areas and erosion problems," said Oller. "We normally open the recreation areas on April 1 and we will still have some areas open, but it won't be until around April 8 that we will have a pretty good idea of the extent of damages we have in the recreational areas."

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