Dry ideas

Lake Hefner
Credit: Shannon Cornman

At the end of January, the city requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release water from Lake Canton, to which the city has water rights, to replenish Lake Hefner, a municipal water reservoir that’s down 18 feet below normal.

A state wildlife official said that action is likely to kill fish in Canton Lake this summer. Residents near the lake in northwestern Oklahoma said the water release will plunge Canton to critical levels and devastate tourism and recreation in the area.

Marsha Slaughter, Oklahoma City’s utilities director, told Oklahoma City Council on Feb. 5 that Canton Lake’s level, which is 18 or 19 feet below normal, is about where it was expected to be.

Another 30,000 acre feet of water should be available for the taking next year, she said, and the lake should refill in up to two years.

Slaughter said four conservation measures are under consideration by Oklahoma City:

—increasing education and awareness,
—reducing outdoor watering time (the city implemented odd/even watering rotation in December), —strengthening enforcement against conservation measure violators, and
—restructuring water utility rates.

That last point was the subject of a presentation to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.

The city is considering restructuring rates in a way that would continue current rates ($2.55 per 1,000 gallons for residential customers) for individuals who use the average amount of water that they have over a given period of time in previous years.

Depending on how strict the city wants to make its conservation effort, going over that amount would mean paying higher rates, according to Bret Weingart, assistant director of city utilities.

Because of significantly low water levels at Hefner — which is around 7 feet below normal, even with the Canton release — the lake’s boating season will be canceled this summer.

Debbie Ragan, spokeswoman for the utility department, said the city is sending letters to people who have rented boat slips to inform them of the development.

Marsha Slaughter

Currently, 311 boat slips are being rented out by the city at a rate of $414 to $745 a year, she said.

Ragan said the Canton Lake release might raise Hefner’s level enough for boaters to retrieve their boats, many of which are resting on the lake bed.

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