Improving Drought Conditions Haven’t Helped Canton Lake Recover From OKC Withdrawal

  • Logan Layden

Mundoo / Flickr

After two years of drought in January 2013, Oklahoma City was in desperate need of more water. Boats were grounded at Lake Hefner, one of the city’s main sources of water, which was devastated by drought.

That’s when the decision was made to use Oklahoma City’s right to the water stored in Canton Lake, about 100 miles northwest. Nearly 10 billion gallons were diverted from Canton Lake to Lake Hefner, a third of which soaked into the North Canadian River bed.

That was bad news for Canton, because the lake has a big economic impact on the small city of about 600. And as the Enid News & Eagle‘s Robert Barron reports, many area residents expected the lake would have recovered by now:

While rainfall this year has helped push back the lengthy drought, it has not fallen in the drainage basin for the lake.

“The rain usually goes downstream. We have a very narrow drainage basin system,” [Army Corps of Engineers Canton Lake Project Manager Kathy] Carlson said. “Any significant rainfall with runoff is not occurring in our drainage basin above the lake. … Many of us thought it would have come back quite a bit by now. In the past, it had bounced back pretty quickly,” she said. “At this rate, it will take a long time.

She says it could take two years for Canton Lake to fully recover, which is 13 feet below normal, and has been since January.

What little is left of the lake is in good shape, Carlson tells the paper. There weren’t any fish kills in Canton Lake this summer, and vegetation growth along the new shoreline will make for a better fish habitat once water levels return to where they were before Oklahoma City’s withdrawal.

Residents of Canton believed Oklahoma City was hasty in taking the … water — before spring rains brought up Lake Hefner’s low levels. In the spring, the Oklahoma City area received so much water it had to release some from Lake Hefner to prevent flooding.