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Drought puts Lake Hefner boating season in jeopardy

Oklahoma City is advising owners that the next two to three weeks likely will give them their best opportunity to float boats left high and dry because of the drought.
by William Crum Published: February 5, 2013

In a further indication of how bad the drought has become, Oklahoma City officials are set to cancel the boating season at Lake Hefner and are studying a proposal to raise water rates.

The city is preparing a letter advising boat owners who lease slips at the Lake Hefner public docks that leases won't be renewed when they come due in April.

It would be the first time the city hasn't renewed leases since the public slips opened in the 1990s.

The best chance for owners to move boats stranded by historically low water levels may come in the next few weeks, Marsha Slaughter, the city's utilities director, said Tuesday.

Water being withdrawn from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma is expected to raise the level of Lake Hefner about 10 feet. That still would leave it about 7 feet below normal.

“If your hobby's been sailing the last couple of years, it's not been good,” said Kenna Green, president of the Lake Hefner Boat Owner's Association.

Gary McManus, the associate state climatologist, told the city council on Tuesday that forecasts for the next three months favor the drought persisting or intensifying in central Oklahoma.

“That forecast looks pretty strong at this point,” Slaughter said.

Leases for “wet stalls” at Lake Hefner range from $414 to $745 per year. Prices depend on the length and width of the slips, Green said.

Up to this point, slip leases have been offered for renewal annually by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust. There are 311 leases.

Hefner is known for its sailing, and Green, who was at the docks Tuesday evening, said 60 to 70 percent of the boats moored there are sailboats.

Oklahoma City last week began withdrawing 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake, about 100 miles northwest of the city.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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