Area lakes filled to the brim, but the drought’s not officially over yet

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

July 8, 2007 - Officially, the drought’s not over yet.

Yeah, right. Tell that to the quagmire that’s become your front yard.

When compared to just a few months ago, area lake levels certainly don’t reflect the dry, arid climate that has been so prevalent for the past couple of years.

Take Cooper Lake, for example. As of 1 p.m. Friday, the lake level was at 439.43 feet, just a smidgen below the conservation pool level of 440 feet. And it was still rising.

�It�s hard to believe that on Christmas Day it was 13 feet below normal,� said Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell.

But for Cooper Lake, the drought isn’t officially over. Suffice it to say that the requirements call for the lake to crest the 440 mark before that pronouncement can be made.

�As soon as it�s over the spillway, the drought will be over,� Maxwell explained, even though he�s fully aware of the impact the recent wet weather has had, such as on city water sales.

In past years when drought-like conditions forced property owners to use their sprinkler systems excessively to keep yards from turning yellow and brown, water sales for the city have resulted in windfalls of up to a half-million dollars in extra revenue. Not so this year.

�The water sales are lower than last year, although it�s tough to compare because it was so dry [in 2006],� he said.

Cooper Lake isn’t the only local water source that’s filling to the brim. Sulphur Springs Lake was at 109.5 percent capacity, close to a foot over its conservation pool level of 459 feet.

Two other nearby reservoirs, Lake Fork and Lake Cypress Springs, are both at capacity. Lake Bob Sandlin is at 88 percent capacity, about three feet from full.

The Associated Press reported Friday that all of the state’s major river basins are at flood stage, the first time that has happened since 1957.

At least 17 lakes governed by the Fort Worth office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have closed parks or boat ramps due to flooding.

The opposite is true at Cooper Lake, however. Boat ramps were previously closed due to the low lake levels, but all boat ramps are open again. The Corps cautions, however, for boaters to use extra caution when navigating the lake due to floating debris and tall vegetation.

National Weather Service forecasters say a series of low pressure systems over Texas have combined with moisture from the Gulf to bring the steady rains of the last three weeks. Forecasters are predicting the low pressure system will move off to the east this weekend, however. Precipitation probabilities dropped from 80 percent Saturday to 20 percent Sunday in Friday’s forecast.

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