TULSA, Okla. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District announced today that the pool elevation of Lake Texoma has dropped to 612 feet, entering the lake into Drought Level 2 of the District’s Drought Contingency Plan.
Lake Texoma had been in Drought Level 1 due to the persistent exceptional drought affecting the lake and the Red River Basin for the last three years. Inflows into the lake have been below average, resulting in a pool elevation that is also below normal. Annual rainfall totals have not been at or above average since 2009. Inflows this year have been 23 percent of average. Normal top of the conservation pool for Lake Texoma is 617.
At the same time, losses from evaporation are significant. Evaporation losses for the last three years have been greater than the 4.4-foot annual average. On a hot day, this can amount to 645 million gallons.
The Tulsa District operates under a Drought Contingency Plan that outlines specific actions at various elevations as reservoir levels drop. Drought levels are numbered 1 through 4, with 4 being the most severe. Drought Level 1 is an alert phase that drought conditions are developing but operations are otherwise normal.
Drought Level 2 (elevation 612 for Texoma) means the lake storage has fallen to 77 percent of its full conservation pool storage. In Drought Level 2, hydropower generation occurs only when needed for rapid response and short-term peaking purposes. Short-term peaking means 6-8 hours per day of full power equivalent in high-demand months, and 4-6 hours per day in lower demand months. Regulation of the lake is coordinated daily with the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), the federal agency responsible for marketing and scheduling the hydroelectric power at Lake Texoma. SWPA, a member of the Lake Texoma Advisory Committee, has generated only about 15 percent of average, or about 1.2 hours per day, since May 2012 to conserve storage whenever possible, and is operating in accordance with all approved plans and procedures. Due to the extended drought conditions in Lake Texoma’s basin, the past three fiscal years (October through September) have recorded the three lowest annual generation totals in the project’s period of record (1950 through 2013).
At Drought Level 2, the Corps monitors storage, withdrawals, and low flow releases; manipulates outlet works to minimize leakage; and continues water storage accounting. The Corps Drought Management Committee activates to coordinate and consider critical issues. Notifications to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Texas Water Development Board occur when 50 percent of the conservation storage remains. Notifications to contracted water users occur when they have exceeded 50 percent of their storage allocation. The district communicates drought information to the public through news releases and postings to the district’s home page and social media sites.
Low lake levels impact recreational users. Boaters can expect more water hazards and exposed sand bars. Larger vessels may have difficulty navigating in marina concession areas, and all vessels may experience extremely shallow water conditions in various locations of the lake. Vessels equipped with a depth finder are strongly encouraged to closely monitor the water depth. The Corps of Engineers recommends that all boaters wear a life jacket. It is especially important with the low lake level because it is more likely that a boat may strike an underwater obstacle, ejecting passengers from the vessel.
At this time, one Corps of Engineers boat ramp is impacted; the boat ramp in Lakeside Public Use area has one lane closed due to the low lake levels. Ramps within various marinas and other outgranted areas may also be inaccessible.
The Tulsa District, Corps of Engineers, is responsible for the regulation of the water stored in Lake Texoma for the purposes of flood risk management, hydropower, water supply, fish and wildlife, recreation, and navigation. The Corps website provides current water level information on the Water Control Data System page at www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil5