Concerns at Lawrence City Hall are rising as water levels at Clinton Lake continue to fall to levels not seen since 1981 when the lake was first filled.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday agreed to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water it plans to release from Clinton during the spring and summer periods. Water levels at Clinton Lake, which is just west of the city, are about 4.5 feet below normal levels.
Corps officials said they’ll consider the request.
“It is the first such request we’ve had from Clinton in at least 10 years,” said Chris Purzer, who is the chief of water management for the Corps’ Kansas City district. “But we understand that the lake is at a historically low level.”
The Kansas Water Office already has sent a letter requesting the Corps to release water at a rate no greater than 7 cubic feet per second during the low water times. That would be down from the standard 21 cubic feet per second the Corps usually releases during the spring and summer seasons.
About 60 percent of all the treated water produced by the city comes from Clinton Lake. City officials aren’t yet concerned about the city’s ability to treat water out of Clinton. City engineers say the city has the ability to draw water from the lake even if the lake is about 23 feet below its normal level.
But water watchers are becoming concerned because the spring season is when the lake normally rises, and thus far it hasn’t been gaining much ground.
“The rains that we have had really just kind of missed us,” said Megan Hiebert, owner of Clinton Lake Marina. “We just need it to rain a little south and west of here.”
Hiebert said the low water levels haven’t yet started to cause major problems for boaters, but that will change if the lake doesn’t begin to refill before temperatures rise. She said currently her marina does have three to four boat slips that aren’t usable because of low water conditions.
Purzer said he did not have a timeline for when the Corps will make a decision about whether to reduce its normal release rates at Clinton. He said officials in the Corps’ division office in Omaha will review any recommendations. He said officials will have to weigh the benefits of storing more water at the lake against several possible concerns, including the impact less water will have on fish and wildlife along the Wakarusa River, which is fed by Clinton Lake.