Skiatook Lake levels remain low
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2012
4/15/12 at 7:51 AM
SKIATOOK - While the levels at other area lakes have stabilized since the historic summer drought, one local body of water continues to struggle.
August 3, 2010, was the last time Skiatook Lake finished a day at or above its normal level of 714 feet. And for the past eight months, the lake hasn't posted an average level above 704 feet.
"The only thing that feeds into Skiatook Lake is Hominy Creek," said Sara Goodeyon, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"That's why the water is so clear; it's so nice and such a beautiful lake. But the drawback is that there's been basically no rainfall over that watershed."
The Tulsa District of the corps manages 23 lakes in Oklahoma, including Skiatook Lake.
"All of these lakes are built to be yo-yos," corps chief spokesman Ross Adkins said. "So when it rains, they stop everything from flowing out, and it starts building up in the flood pool behind the dam. Then we have droughts, it keeps going down and down and down and down."
Part of the problem is the watershed.
The drainage area for Skiatook Lake is 354 square miles, according to the corps. That is minuscule compared to area corps lakes such as Keystone (74,506 square miles), Eufaula (47,522) and even Oologah (4,339).
"It needs for the rainfall to be almost directly over the lake or northwest of the lake for the rainfall to get into it," Goodeyon said.
The low water levels can present challenges to swimmers and boaters.
"Any time the water level goes down, you're going to be boating over a different area of the lake, and there could be some submerged things that are obviously going to be closer to the surface," Goodeyon said.
"Visitors to the lake also are accustomed to wading in an area of the lake where there were no dropoffs in the past. But with the lower lake areas, you may be wading in a completely different area, and there could be a dropoff. They have to watch out for that, be very careful and consider wearing a life jacket."
CrossTimbers at Skiatook Lake, a public-private entity with the corps, includes a marina.
CrossTimbers developer Ron Howell said the water level in the fall "got so low that people were starting to hit trees that had never come into play. We went ahead and with divers removed all the trees and stumps all the way to the floor of the lake. All the trees out to the big water."
Richard Barton is owner of Crystal Bay Marina and Resort at the lake.
"In our case, we just bit the bullet and moved our docks out so they're in deep enough water so people can access their boats," he said. "Does it affect you? Yes, about $45,000 worth to move them out. You know what? We've done it. It's part of the business."
Barton has operated Crystal Bay since 1988.
"We have water depth," he said. "If it went down 19 feet, we would still be in business. We would just relocate things.
"As long as we provide our customers a safe place to have their toys, they can get on them and go play."
The drought monitor for the Skiatook area reached "extreme," the second-highest classification, at the end of July, said Nicole McGavock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tulsa.
Now off the drought scale, the area remains in the "abnormally dry" category, she said.
"The rainfall and soil moisture parameters are looking a lot better, but the lake still isn't responding," McGavock said. "That indicates that there's probably some sub-surface moisture that needs to be replenished before the lake starts to fill."
As for potential relief, she said there is no strong indication that eastern Oklahoma will be wetter or drier during the summer.
"We're seeing some rises in the lake from the recent rainfall, but it hasn't been huge, especially as compared to the other lakes in the area," McGavock said.
Drainage area of some area lakes
In square miles
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Original Print Headline: Water-level woes
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Mike Rasmussen, an operations manager for CrossTimbers at Skiatook Lake, tosses debris from the shoreline on Friday. The lake has seen below-average water levels since August 2010. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Ron Howell, developer for CrossTimbers at Skiatook Lake, said divers removed trees and stumps that had become a problem with continued low water levels in the lake. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World