Lawrence officials worry about Clinton Lake level

03/27/2014 1:37 PM

03/27/2014 1:40 PM

Water levels at Clinton Lake are the lowest they have been since it was filled in 1981, and city officials have asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water the corps releases from the lake this spring and summer.

Although the lake is 4.5 feet below the normal level of 875.5 feet, city officials said they are not concerned about the city’s water supply. Engineers say they can draw water from the lake just west of Lawrence even when it is 23 feet below normal.

Corps officials said they will consider the request approved this week by the Lawrence City Commission.

“It is the first such request we’ve had from Clinton in at least 10 years,” said Chris Purzer, 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 had asked the corps to reduce the rate of water it releases from 21 cubic feet per second to no greater than 7 cubic feet per second during low water times. The lake usually fills in the spring, but it hasn’t received enough rain so far this year.

“The rains that we have had really just kind of missed us,” said Megan Hiebert, owner of Clinton Lake Marina.

Hiebert said the low water levels haven’t caused problems for boaters but that will change if the lake doesn’t begin to refill before temperatures rise.

Purzer said officials in the corps’ office in Omaha will review any recommendations for lowering water releases. He said several factors will be considered, including the impact less water will have on fish and wildlife along the Wakarusa River, which is fed by Clinton Lake.

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