While the water level in Cooper Lake has dropped to about 40 percent of capacity, about 10 feet low, the ability to get the water from the lake to the pump intakes is of concern, especially to North Texas Municipal Water District as well as the city of Sulphur Springs.
Hopkins County Commissioners Court was asked earlier this week by North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) for permission to use County Road 4810 in connection with a proposed dredging project at the water intake channel at Cooper Lake.
Jim Parks, executive director of NTMWD, said the district must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any dredging is started, and the project is only in the planning stages.
“What we're working on with the Corps, very preliminarily, just exploring it right now, is the ability to go in and just remove the silt that has accumulated in front of the intake structure that feeds water to the pump station that Sulphur Springs, Irving and us pump from,” Parks said.
The dredging plan was explored in 2005 after the prolonged drought had dropped the water level in Cooper Lake to the point that silt was about to impede the flow of water to the pump's intake structure.
While NTMWD looked at removing the silt and digging the channel deeper in 2005, this plan is somewhat different.
“That was horrendously expensive,” Parks said. “We were looking at that time at dredging the intake only, just the channel that feeds the Cooper Lake intake,” he said. “The cost to do that, deepening the channel, was about $32 million.”
About the same time the dredging was being considered, unseasonal rains in June 2006 brought the lake level up to capacity and made the expensive dredging unnecessary.
The silt problem began as the lake first filled and has continued to grow with each rainfall that produces runoff into the lake.
“Initially, when the pumping station was built, there was a channel that was cut deep enough to go back to the original flow line of the South Sulphur River,” Parks explained. “So, what we are looking at now, we are simply going back to where the channel should be, that's full right now, and removing the sediment that is filling the channel up.”
Parks said the project would not involve the use of heavy equipment to scoop the sediment materials out of the channel. It would use large pumps that would suction the muck from the channel to get back to the original design condition at the lake.
Although Sulphur Springs is, at this time, not considering involvement in the dredging project, the work will give the city greater access to the water it owns in Cooper Lake.
Parks said he felt plans were at least three months away from being ready to submit in a permit application.
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