With several inches of rain in the forecast and numerous camp sites around Lake Eufaula closed due to flooding, questions are circulating when a release of water from Eufaula Dam will occur.
According to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, the depth as of Tuesday afternoon was 595.82 feet and slowly rising. The normal level for the lake according to the Corps is 585 feet.
The lake was higher than 595 feet twice in 2015 – in May, when flooding rains caused lake levels to rise to 599.68 feet – just shy of the record height of 599.70 feet, which was set in April 1990, and again in December 2015 when the level rose to 598.33 feet.
Release rates from Eufaula Dam in May 2015 were the highest since 1990 at 171,000 cubic feet per second, which caused major flooding along the Arkansas River from Moffett, Oklahoma, and into some Fort Smith, Arkansas, subdivisions.
This year, major and historic flooding is occurring along the Arkansas River, which has prompted the evacuation of several neighborhoods and towns along the river in eastern Oklahoma and into Arkansas.
The town of Moffett was completely inundated with flood waters on Tuesday. Current flood stages being called “the flood of record” in Fort Smith after the Arkansas River rose past the 38.1 foot record set in 1938.
A release now from the Eufaula Dam would only agitate flooding in the Arkansas; a release is currently not set until the weekend.
“We are definitely in a position currently that we can hold our water and control the release after the Arkansas has run down somewhat,” said Craig Robbins, of the USACE.
Robbins said the lake is currently forecast to reach the top of the flood control pool of 597 feet on or around noon on May 31, with some type of release from the dam expected around that time.
“It may be a small release, but it would probably be a release because we don’t want the water to go above 597 feet,” Robbins said. He said the water could still go above the 597 mark, but the gates would be opened accordingly because "We want to keep the gates above water height.”
But with the area currently under a flash flood watch with one-to-two inches of rain possible with locally higher amounts possible over the next two days, a release could occur sooner.
“I hate to make a prediction what we would do in that case, but that may trigger that release far quicker than May 31 or June 1,” Robbins said.
But for now, Robbins said the dam is holding strong and the structure is performing as it should and doing what it was designed for – which is to hold back and reduce flooding.
Information from the Corps states that as of 2015, the dam has prevented nearly $575.5 million in flood damages since its completion in 1964.
Contact Derrick James at firstname.lastname@example.org