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Drought sinks water levels at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner to all-time low

The Oklahoma City utilities trust is exploring a water release from Canton Lake to restore levels at Lake Hefner, and grounded boaters are exploring new hobbies.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Modified: January 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013

The city is permitted 131,000 acre feet of water from Lake Atoka and McGee Creek reservoirs and 80,000 acre feet from the reservoirs fed by the North Canadian system. Last year, the city used more than 157,000 acre-feet of water in total.

Climatologists say 2011 and 2012 together was the fourth-driest two-year period on record, and water levels at each of the city's storage reservoirs are at an all-time low.

“This is probably the worst it's ever been,” LaTresa Wright, harbor master at Lake Hefner, said Wednesday.

Recreational loss

Wright said the harbor on the south side of the lake has become a boat graveyard, with as many as a thousand boats strung up off shore or elevated and secured in straps on the lake's dry bed, concrete docks and ramps sitting askew in the dirt.

About 3,000 people use Lake Hefner for recreational purposes each year, and about 550 rent wet or dry stall space at the harbor.

Most boat owners were able to secure their vessels or take them home beginning in July and August, Wright said, but others lay on the ground, their keels lodged in the mud.

Kenna Green's 23-foot sailboat sits on a trailer in her driveway.

Green, president of the Lake Hefner Boat Owner's Association, said she and other members pulled their boats and are looking for new hobbies to bide the time.

“Several of us have bought bicycles, and so we end up biking around the lake instead of sailing in the lake,” she said.

Green said the lease agreement for stall space clearly notes that dry spells may close it during some seasons, but that they are still disappointed.

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