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January 18, 2014

Corps not intentionally draining Lake Texoma

Ada — A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday Lake Texoma is not being intentionally drained for any reason. Facebook rumors accused the governmental entity of being responsible for the lake’s low water levels in its attempt to supply energy to Dallas, Texas. Brande Serner, administrative officer, said lake water levels are drastically reduced due to a three-year drought in the area.

“That is a false rumor and it is rampant right now,” Serner said. “It is all over the Internet. We are currently in year three of an exceptional to severe drought.”

Serner said although area vegetation and farm ponds have benefitted from recent rains, it takes more than good local rainfall to fill a massive lake with 580 miles of shoreline. Serner said Lake Texoma relies on rainfall in a vast area which includes northwest Texas and southwest Oklahoma. Several creeks and rivers feed into the Red River, which feeds into Lake Texoma. Even when there is good rain, during a drought much of it is absorbed by vegetation and parched earth, she said.

“Without rain, the water (level) is not going to rise and it will continue to fall, based purely on evaporation rates,” Serner said. “Also, we do produce hydropower and energy here, so there is no intent to lower the level at all.”

Serner said Lake Texoma supplies power and water to various municipalities. This will continue, despite the drought, but as the lake levels drop, so will the availability of power and water to these various entities, she said.

Serner said power from Lake Texoma is controlled by Oklahoma City-based Southwestern Power Administration. SWPA sells the electricity to various electrical co-ops and companies, the majority being in north Texas.

“We do generate electricity here,” Serner said. “In fact, 2013 was the lowest year for generation since hydropower began in 1945. (SWPA) is aware of the detriment to the low lake levels and they have made some drastic reductions in their demands for power.”

Water from the lake goes to various municipalities, including Dallas. Serner said as the lake level drops, municipalities who get water from Lake Texoma will have to put conservation efforts in place.

“Everybody kind of has a piece of the pie,” Serner said, “but there is only so much lake, there is only so much water. Hydropower has a certain portion, water supply has a certain portion and it’s all allocated out. Of course, the lake level and conservation poll matters. Once those elevations get very low, then everyone has to start really considering more conservation measures.”

The lake level is about 609 feet currently, according to a news release.

By law, hydropower can be taken until the level is at 590 feet, although it would be become cost ineffective to do so near that level, Serner said.

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