Col. Michael Teague, Tulsa District commander, held a Commander’s Listening Session in the Eufaula High School auditorium Dec. 18.
The session, which had approximately 80 attendees, was an opportunity to update community members on a variety of topics concerning Eufaula Lake.
“The reason we came out tonight is two parts,” Teague said. “First, we want to give brief updates on the Environmental Impact Statement, where we stand on the Eufaula Lake Advisory Committee, the pool management plan, and the reallocation study. Second, we want to talk a little bit about the drought.”
Teague explained the status of the Lake Eufaula Advisory Committee and said that it is the first step in what he sees is a three step plan, which also includes the pool management plan and the reallocation study.
Once approved, the Eufaula Lake Advisory Committee will consist of 12 members that represent different interests in the lake including water supply, recreation, hydropower, and other uses. Membership will consist of representatives from other federal and state agencies, the Eufaula Lake Association, tribal nations, and other organizations. In order for it to become a reality, it must be approved by the Secretary of Defense.
“We see the value in the lake advisory committee,” Teague said. “We are working to get it approved.”
Once the committee is approved and formed, he sees it to be useful in helping to create a pool management plan which could establish a seasonal pool in Eufaula Lake. He also talked about the reallocation study and said that they are already working on getting funding in the next few years to begin the study.
“While these things may not line up perfectly,” he said. “We think that if we can get these things in place and ready to go once the advisory committee is approved, it’ll give us an advantage going forward.”
Teague also updated the audience on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is part of the update to the Shoreline Management Plan and Master Plan. He said that the Draft EIS is complete and the district is currently accepting public comments until Jan. 21. He also said that the EIS and updates are on schedule. The final EIS is scheduled for completion at the end of May and the Shoreline Management Plan and Master Plan updates will be done by the end of June.
“We told you it would be done in two years and we will have it finished in two years.”
In addition to those updates, a major focus of the meeting was the impacts of the drought.
“We’ve been dealing with this drought for two years now,” he said. “We’ve talked about it a lot because we know how important it is to everyone.”
He showed the crowd a map of all the Tulsa District projects affected by the drought and explained that it has been a major problem within the region, not just the Tulsa District. He said the biggest challenge is balancing the use of water for many different, sometimes competing purposes.
“There is no one purpose that reigns supreme over others,” he said. “It’s all about balancing.”
Teague said that by doing temporary deviations from the normal operations plan the Corps is able to stretch the water and make it last longer.
“We’re going to keep stretching the water and we won’t do it alone. We’ll work with our stakeholders and partners,” he said.
According to Teague, Southwestern Power Administration, which generates hydropower at the lake, bought $40 million in power from other sources so that they wouldn’t generate as much from the lakes. If they wouldn’t have purchased that power, then Eufaula Lake would be 13 ft. lower than its current level.
He said another way of stretching the water is using it as many ways as possible.
“The last thing you want to do is let water go without using it over and over again,” Teague said. “The water released from Eufaula goes through the powerhouse and then ends up in Kerr and there it goes through the powerhouse again before going into the navigation channel.”
The key to successfully getting through the drought is working together with others, he said.
“If there are four drops of water left in that lake, we are going to sit down with everyone to figure out the best use of those four drops,” he said. “If the drought continues for three more years, we will continue to sit around that table and work it out together.”