When is a River or Stream not a River or a Stream?

Scott Hood | Tenkiller Dam/ Lower Illinois River, Oklahoma

When there is NO water for it!

In 1952-53, when Tenkiller Dam was built by the USACE no one thought that someday, there would be a demand for water IN the river and that there would be NONE to give. That day is here.

It’s a very long and convoluted story to tell, but the short version is this: 7% of the stored water in Lake Tenkiller is there to support surrounding businesses and municipal water supplies. 93% of the water behind the dam is there for recreational purposes in the lake and for POWER generation, water through the generators. 93% + 7% = 100% That means that the only time there is water coming out of the dam and into the river it should be for generation purposes only. The US Army Corp of Engineers and South West Power Administration are standing by these numbers.

Problem #1, usual generation only takes place once or twice a day and then only for short periods of time.

Problem #2 and the biggest is this. Over the previous 20+ years the sluice gate in the dam leaked. It leaked enough water to offer sustained and year around flow to keep a stream flowing and thus supporting a year around trout fishery. But it did not leak enough water to cause a huge concern to all involved. Except for the fact that it was a leak and that this leak was on a short list at the USACE to fix, some day when money was available. (The USACE doesn’t like it when a project on their watch is leaking.) That day came when the Obama administration offered up the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and soon after it became law, money came available to the USACE and the leak was repaired. The only problem now, there was not and never was a water allocation made for the river/stream to flow 24/7/365.

At that time and after a couple of fish kills caused be poor water quality or no water in the river, water for the river was “loaned” out of storage from the now defunct Sequoyah Fuels Company in Vian, OK, about 14,500 acre feet. They held the largest of all the 7% individual storage rights in Lake Tenkiller and it was offered to the ODWC to support the downstream flow from the lake. That loan was predicated on a clause that if other water districts in the area needed the water that it would have to be given up to them. As it turns out, it was a very short term loan and two area municipalities are now in possession of this 14,500 acre feet of stored water in Lake Tenkiller.

At the current time, both of these municipal water companies are still “loaning” water to the ODWC. However, both are now notifying the ODWC that in the very near future some of that loaned water will no longer be available and that in the near term none of it would be available. (18 to 24 months)

That is why I have formed a Facebook group called WATER FOR THE LOWER ILLINOIS RIVER. I encourage anyone that has ever fished in the Lower Illinois River or even concerned citizens who feel water should always flow in any river to join this Facebook group and be ready to act when called upon to do so.

This is a FEDERAL issue that effects the people and the environment in the State of Oklahoma. The people of Oklahoma and even the surrounding area, those that enjoy this river will be the ones that put pressure on those at the FEDERAL level to DO THE RIGHT THING and to force those that hold the 93% of storage in the lake to give up some of what they have had and used to their monetary gains since 1953.

Now, if you believe, like I believe, that the Lower Illinois River should be allowed to flow, everyday and all day, forever … please ask to join our closed Facebook group … WATER FOR THE LOWER ILLINOIS RIVER.

Thank you. Scott Hood

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