Woodward, Okla. —
With drought conditions continuing to plague the state and lake water continuing to disappear, the appropriation of that water is coming under scrutiny as Oklahoma City is planning to draw 7.3 feet of water from Canton Lake to use in Lake Hefner.
Fisheries Supervisor John Stahl with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation explained that Oklahoma City owns water rights to Canton Lake's conservation pool.
Canton Lake Manager Kathy Carlson with the Corps of Engineers explained the conservation pool saying, "Basically its the usable space within any pool. It has various applications, it's your usable water. The conservation portion is what's utilized to meet your various operations, whether it be fish and wildlife, water supply storage, hydro electric power. It's your normal operating level between the flood pool, which is above normal operating levels, and the inactive pool, which is your lowest level."
The conservation pool consists of 19 ft of water from the lake if it's full, Stahl said.
However, he said the lake hasn't been full since 2 water releases were made in 2011, resulting in a water level drop of 9 feet.
"Canton Lake hasn't gained any water since May, so we're still down 9 feet. There was a meeting on Dec. 12, 2012 at the Water Resources Board where Oklahoma City requested another 7.3 feet of water to take place sometime in January which would result in a total of 16.3 feet of water out of Canton Lake," he said.
ANOTHER WATER DRAW MIGHT LEAD TO MORE FISH KILLS
While Stahl admits its within Oklahoma City's legal power to do so, he said this draw could have devastating repercussions on Canton Lake.
"As the fisheries supervisor for Canton I told them I was very concerned about a massive fish kill next summer," he said.
Stahl went on to explain exactly what a fish kill was and how it worked.
"With the water that shallow and Canton being a wind swept lake, nutrients that would normally be trapped at the bottom will be stirred up and brought up to the sunlight and heat. The result will be a tremendous plankton bloom which will turn the water pea green and result in a massive loss of fish," he said.
Stahl said the lake has already dealt with other wildlife losses from the previous water draws.
"We had a large kill of freshwater drum fish last year from the water taken. A lot of people don't realize it, but drum are actually sensitive fish, so we expect that the environmental stress from the water taken to have brought on the massive fish kill," he said.
In addition to the drum killed off, Stahl suspects the water draw to have severely affected the walleye and saugeye egg harvesting that takes place at Canton.
"Canton is where we get walleye and saugeye eggs for the whole state, and last year is the first year we couldn't net 10 million eggs. We ended up going to Fort Supply lake as well for eggs, but we were still only able to get 4 million. This year with lake levels so low if Fort Supply doesn't gain 2 feet of water between now and March we wont be able to get a boat out there and we'll have to get our fish from out of state," said Stahl.