A public meeting conducted by officials from the Kansas City district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, held Monday at Stockton’s community building, outlined current concerns regarding high water levels at Stockton Lake.
The officials said the lake’s flood control pool has reached 70% of capacity and levels could continue to rise in the coming months. Rod Hendricks, Stockton Lake manager, said the average pool level is 867 feet. The most recent reading, he said, was 885.3 which was recorded Saturday, June 1. The record high level for the pool is 885.94 feet, making the current reading the second-highest ever recorded by the corps. No estimates were provided as to how much above average the flood control pool could get this summer.
Engineer Chris Purzer of the corps said he is concerned, but there is still room to hold water and water will be held until capacity is reached, and then any additional water will have to be sent south to the Little and Big Sac rivers regardless of the situation.
In his presentation, Hendricks said the two beach areas in the corps’ Stockton Lake district are closed as water has covered the beaches and parking areas. Additionally, only four of the 14 boat ramps operated by the corps remain open and half of the corps’ campground sites are closed because of flooding. Hendricks said the corps operates about 450 campsites at Stockton Lake.
“It could get worse before it gets better,” Purzer said.
Caplinger Woods RV and Campground has been hit hard, and its owner, Danny Finch, had some tough questions for corps’ officials. Finch said after one heavy storm left his facility underwater and in bad shape, he spent about $2,000 on clean-up efforts. Then came another storm and water from the lake into the Sac River which was already at flood stage.
Purzer said the corps monitored the situation and shut off any water flow into the river when certain levels were reached. He then explained other reasons for the water rise of the Sac River other than water release from the local lake.
Finch asked why the corps did not take preventative steps against excessive rain, but Purzer said everything was “under control until March.” He said weather forecasting and predicting where rainstorms hit is impossible even for professional weather experts.
Col. Doug Guttormsen of the corps acknowledged high water problems across all 18 lakes in the district, with seven at record high levels, including Stockton Lake.
Purzer cited a very wet and rainy winter and spring season in addition to high water levels in the Missouri River and its tributaries for the buildup of water in corps lakes.
Truman Lake and its reservoir are at capacity, Purzer said, as are other lakes which has forced Stockton Lake to increase the amount of water it is holding. He added the inability to release water into the Sac River system because of its problems affiliated with flooding has added to local lake concerns.
David Kolarik, the district’s public affairs officer, stressed the corps’ concern with human life, safety, use of the local lake and the impact on the local economy.
Hendricks said he is aware of the situation facing local marinas and those who operate private campgrounds, and the problems they have incurred.
“We are talking to all the local stakeholders,” Kolarik said.
He added efforts at keeping the Stockton community informed will continue during the coming months.
Kolarik urged those who use the lake to be vigilant and stressed the importance of water safety whenever one swims, boats, fishes or skis.
“Flood control and human safety are paramount,” Kolarik said, “while the corps continues to monitor the situation.”
Kolarik and Col. Guttormsen said the dams at Stockton Lake are in good condition, while Jake Owen, chief of the geo-technical branch for the Kansas City district, said all four tainter gates will working by Friday. One of the gates is currently undergoing repairs, which have been pushed up because of the weather and rainfall. The gate will be on line by Friday, Owen said.
Purzer said the flood control pool will continue to rise, but it is manageable until it nears 100% capacity. Once it gets to 90% the corps will be ready to act. Regardless of the status of the Sac River, water from the lake will flow to the river when full capacity is reached.
However, he stressed, current releases into the river are being restricted.
The hope is for a drier than normal summer and the opportunity to release water from the Truman reservoir system into other safety valves and waterways, which in turn will reduce pressure on the corps to send water down to Stockton Lake, Purzer said.