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Archive for Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tide high at Clinton Lake

Heavy rains raise reservoir, bring bad news for boaters

May 15, 2007

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Kristi Wenger and Mitch Langley, both of Lawrence, find the swim beach area and parking lot under water on the west side of Clinton Lake. The lake is at its second highest level in history thanks to the big rains of the last couple of weeks. Wenger and Langley had hoped to swim Monday but settled for sunbathing in the grass near the high water.

Kristi Wenger and Mitch Langley, both of Lawrence, find the swim beach area and parking lot under water on the west side of Clinton Lake. The lake is at its second highest level in history thanks to the big rains of the last couple of weeks. Wenger and Langley had hoped to swim Monday but settled for sunbathing in the grass near the high water.

Deve Thompson, Spring Hill, and her dog Skipper walk across a makeshift bridge over a flooded parking lot on their way to the Clinton Lake Marina. Thompson is the marina's new manager.

Deve Thompson, Spring Hill, and her dog Skipper walk across a makeshift bridge over a flooded parking lot on their way to the Clinton Lake Marina. Thompson is the marina's new manager.

Three questions ... with Lew Ruona about Clinton Lake

Lew Ruona, the project manager for the Corps of Engineers at Clinton Lake, talks about how the Corps deals with the high water levels at the lake.

Waters at Clinton Lake reach second highest level ever

Waters at Clinton Lake rise to their second highest level ever - this just two weeks before Memorial Day Weekend. Lake officials caution only the most experienced boaters should brave the lake. Enlarge video

Clinton Lake right now is doing exactly what it was built to do - hold lots and lots of floodwater.

As the lake level has climbed, boating conditions have actually fallen, but don't try to tell that to boaters who are wanting to cure their cabin fever with a trip to the lake.

"There's a lot of debris out there," said Nick Nikolic, a Kansas City, Kan., resident who was trying to boat Monday. "There are trees floating right out in the middle of the lake."

The recent rains have pushed Clinton Lake to its second-highest flood total in history. On Saturday, the lake peaked at 12.4 feet above its normal level, said Lew Ruona, the lake's project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Another way to look at it is that prior to recent heavy rains, the lake was holding about 150,000 acre feet of water. Now, it contains about 240,000 acre feet of water.

The high water has closed all but one of the lake's boat ramps, but Ruona is asking people to think twice about boating at all while the water is so high.

"The amount of debris in the lake right now is really phenomenal," Ruona said. "I saw a guy out water-skiing last week. That's really dangerous. I would use extreme caution on the lake right now."

The high water also inundated the sewer pumping stations at the Walnut and Hickory campgrounds in the Bloomington Park area, which caused Corps officials to close all bathroom and shower houses at the campgrounds.

Most campsites at the lake, however, are still open and clear of floodwaters. Ruona said he was optimistic that the lake would be in good shape for the Memorial Day weekend, which is the traditional kickoff for the summer camping and boating season.

Ruona said Monday's strong winds were beneficial because they would help push woody debris to the shores. He said his crews would be removing debris from swimming beach areas and campground sites.

The crews also will be releasing water from the lake into the Wakarusa River through the dam's gates. The Corps was releasing 3,200 cubic feet per second Monday, Ruona said. That will have the Wakarusa roaring. On a normal day, the Corps releases about 20 cubic feet per second into the river.

More rain is the biggest threat to the Corps effort to get the lake down to normal levels. Ruona said the Corps would shut the dam's gates again if another heavy rain comes, because preventing flooding is what the lake primarily was designed to do.

Without the dam, major parts of the Wakarusa River valley would have flooded during the last round of storms, Ruona said. According to Corps records, the Wakarusa River suffered major floods 25 times between 1930 and 1980, when the lake officially opened. Since then, major flooding on the Wakarusa is rare.

"The No. 1 reason for Clinton Lake is flood control," Ruona said. "Right now it is doing exactly what it is designed to do, but the public forgets that.

"The public is not used to being inconvenienced by these high-water events because we haven't had many of them lately. But be patient. The lake will come back down."

Being patient is easier said than done for some. Sherri Withers, who works in the main office at Clinton Lake State Park, said the park was "swamped" last weekend with boaters despite several warnings about the high water and debris.

"The weather was nice, and a lot of people had spring fever," Withers said.

Eagle Bend back 9 closed

Boaters aren't the only ones being inconvenienced by high water at Clinton Lake. Golfers are getting a taste as well.

The large releases of water into the Wakarusa River have flooded a portion of the cart paths at the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course, which is just below the Clinton Lake dam. The high water has caused Eagle Bend staff to close the course's back nine holes.

Both the Corps and Eagle Bend leaders, though, are optimistic that the back nine will be open this weekend, absent any rain.

Comments

Mr_Ramirez 6 years, 11 months ago

I love the part about the "waterskier".........pure genius

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imastinker 6 years, 11 months ago

The lakes are dangerous. I'm surprised that people could even get the boat off the trailer. I bet the water was almost coming in the floorboards.

I'm going to go boating in other places for a little while anyway....

The water was higher than that in 1993. I can remember swimming in the parking lot at the bloomington side there where the picture was taken. The lot was about waist level on the deep end.

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lmpaul 6 years, 11 months ago

All those words about water and debris, but not a mention about the fishing.

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KS 6 years, 11 months ago

Hurray for our forefathers who approved the construction of these lakes.

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