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Water Management for the Tulsa District
Chief of Water Management
McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK - Lake still below normal; no big drops expected
"There won't be any big drops like a foot in three weeks or anything like that, unless Southwest Power suddenly needs a lot of energy," said Greg Estep, Corps Chief of Water Management for the Tulsa District."They only use Lake Eufaula when it's absolutely necessary."Southwest Power uses Lake Eufaula, and other lakes in a five state area, to generate and sell hydroelectricity to non-profit cooperatives.The electricity is sold in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas, according to Estep.He said that although one unit was used for a short time Tuesday afternoon, the falling lake level is due more to evaporation than the generation of hydroelectricity."Generation's been pretty minimal; we haven't generated much at all lately," Estep said."We released a little bit yesterday, but we're losing more to evaporation.The level's falling very slowly because there's little inflow.Over the last week Lake Eufaula dropped about one-tenth of a foot."Estep said he expects the level to continue falling slowly, losing "a tenth or two" each week, until a significant rain.He said virtually no water is coming into the lake from surrounding creeks and rivers."In July of last year we were at 583.9 feet," Estep said.
David Urban, chief of forecasting, and Greg Estep, chief of water management, said their branch of the Corps must operate groups of reservoirs as interrelated systems rather than single reservoirs."We get data every hour," Estep said.Forecasting and Water Management come under the Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch of the Corps.
While farmers and ranchers downstream, kept an eye on the Red's water levels, engineer Greg Estep, chief of water management at the Corp's Tulsa office, focused on weather forecasts, lake levels and flood water releases from reservoir dams."We keep track of how much water is coming in and how much storage area we have in the lakes," Estep said."We know about what we can release to prevent major flooding."During heavy rain activity, Estep said, the Corps makes decisions on how much water to release from each lake to prevent major flooding.During the past three weeks, flooding occurred in DeKalb, covering acres of farm and pasture land when the river crested slightly higher than 28 feet.Flood stage is 24 feet."I don't believe it got into any buildings," Estep said."Recreation takes a back seat to protecting lives and property," Estep said about the necessity during flooding conditions to hold water in reservoirs until river levels downstream can handle additional water."Only in an extreme emergency would we close off that valve," Estep said.The engineer explained the valve is designed to release an amount equivalent to what Sanders Creek can carry. "We would have to use a capping device lowered by a crane to shut off the valve," he explained. "We also use forecasting techniques and information from the National Weather Service to determine in advance how much water to expect to come into the lakes from Red River watersheds," Estep said. "I keep my eye on the weather from DeKalb to the Texas Panhandle," Estep said, explaining the Red River watershed extends to northwest Texas, bringing water to Lake Texoma.Improved forecasting and automatic gauge technology through the past decade have advanced the Corps' ability to manage lake and river levels."We use an quantitative participation forecast from the National Weather Service that predicts rainfall five days in advance," Estep explained.
A month ago, Greg Estep, chief of water management at the Corp's Tulsa office, said it would take a couple of months or longer to return the three lakes to normal levels.
News - Story Page
Parks' water district received approval in May to take 100,000 acre-feet per year, said Greg Estep, chief of water management for the Corps of Engineers' Tulsa district office. Estep said studies showed that if the district uses its entire share, "I'm pretty sure we'll have lower pool levels, but not significant enough that we're going to notice it," Estep said. Bottom line: The actual impact is unknown and won't be, Estep and Smith agree, until the Texas water district removes its total share during a drought.