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It's more than just a simple water fight

by Don Gammill Modified: June 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm •  Published: June 19, 2013

Six months ago, the ongoing drought conditions were drying up Oklahoma City’s primary water supply. Lake Hefner’s level was so low that much of the lake bottom was exposed. Boating  was replaced by walking out on dry land well into the lake.

The lake was in trouble and city officials decided it was time to act, so they exercised a legal right I first learned about when I was working for the newspapers in Enid years ago. Oklahoma City officials tapped Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma to replenish Hefner.

In this photo from January, boats sit on the bottom of a dry marina at Lake Hefner. (The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)
In this photo from January, boats sit on the bottom of a dry marina at Lake Hefner. (The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)

Now, it’s Canton Lake that is trouble. The draw down to help Oklahoma City has left Canton well below its normal level. In fact, there are those who believe the latest move is killing the lake.

Drawing water from Canton wasn’t a popular move among those in that part of the state and during the time my family lived in Enid. I heard a lot of cussing and discussing of the action. Now, as a resident of central Oklahoma, I hear and read more of the other side of the issue, from those who want and need the water here.

There are two sides to any story. There are winners and losers. It’s a matter of perspective.

Here are some of the key moments in this situation this year.

Water from Canton Lake flows toward Lake Hefner in February. (The Oklahoman, David McDaniel)
Water from Canton Lake flows toward Lake Hefner in February. (The Oklahoman, David McDaniel)

Water from Canton Lake began flowing into Lake Hefner on Feb. 4, completing a 100-mile trip and boosting drinking water supplies after months of drought, staff writer William Crum reported. He added a “side benefit is that some people may be able to refloat boats that have been stuck in the mud because of historically low water levels.” Others were left high and dry in marinas, well above the water they normally floated in.

The story also focused on the needs of Oklahoma City and how the water from Canton would help. http://tinyurl.com/mg6fool

Despite the dropping water level at Canton Lake, due to the transfer of water to Oklahoma City, officials continued to work diligently on how to keep moving on their biggest annual event, the Canton Walleye Rodeo, and other activities.

The biggest concern, the Enid News & Eagle reported, was that there wouldn’t be enough water to make these events successful. http://tinyurl.com/mukts7o

A boat ramp lies exposed in Canton Lake as the water level dropped. (Enid News & Eagle photo)
A boat ramp lies exposed in Canton Lake as the water level dropped. (Enid News & Eagle photo)

 

But, as they have many times through the years, the citizens of Canton pulled together. One of the ways they decided to make up for the loss of water was to add more events. The Canton Lake Association officials came up with several new twists.

People in other locations, such as Don Peters in Yukon, spoke up for those in Canton.

“My heart goes out to the folks in western Oklahoma,” he wrote. “They’ve lost the use of Canton Lake for the foreseeable future. Although this entitlement to supply Oklahoma City water was contracted many years ago, I wonder what the forward-thinking stewards of our land and water resources are planning.” http://tinyurl.com/mtc9lnc

On March 11, staff writer and columnist Bryan Painter gave an update in his Weather  Blog, based on information supplied by Gary McManus of  the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. http://tinyurl.com/mzd3z3j

In it, there was a comparison to this year versus last and how the water situation stood throughout the state.

A buoy lies in the dirt on  the bottom of Canton Lake. (Enid News & Eagle photo)
A buoy lies in the dirt on the bottom of Canton Lake. (Enid News & Eagle photo)

On March 19, the Enid News & Eagle had an updated report on the situation in Canton and how the lake association there was working extra hard to retain visitation numbers. But as the lake level continue to drop, so did attendance.

That required additional efforts from those in Canton. http://tinyurl.com/lcv2jxb

William Crum took a comprehensive look at the question “Is Oklahoma going to run out of water?” on April 15. http://tinyurl.com/l3voasb

He teamed with Painter for an upbeat story on how rains were alleviating drought conditions in many areas of the state. http://tinyurl.com/lkhkxvj

This story noted that recent rains were helping, but not so much in Canton, where the lake was only about 18 percent full after Oklahoma City had drawn the 30,000-acre-feet it got to replenish.

In this photo from earlier this month, boaters enjoy the warm air and cool water at Lake Hefner, which is full again. (The Oklahoman,  Paul Hellstern)
In this photo from earlier this month, boaters enjoy the warm air and cool water at Lake Hefner, which is full again. (The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern)
A May 16 story by Crum noted that Oklahoma City’s reservoir levels were 57.4 percent full. Meanwhile, Canton was up only to 20 percent. http://tinyurl.com/lodyawr

Since then, there have been a series of storms with heavy rain. As a result, Hefner is full. But the Associated Press reported just last week that the concerns in Canton are serious. Some there even have said that the lake, with the AP-reported 13 feet below normal level, may never recover. http://tinyurl.com/kpmped9

By the comments readers made to that report, there is some heavy criticism of the move to give Oklahoma City so much Canton Lake water.

It’s a debate that may continue to rage for years.

 

by Don Gammill
General Assignment Editor and Columnist
Don Gammill is general assignment editor and columnist. A native of Ponca City, he graduated from Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma). While in college, he was a sports stringer for The Oklahoma City Times....
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