BENBROOK (CBSDFW.COM) – The expectation among marina owners is that the docks are going to sit on water, and that they won’t have to mow their boat slips.
But at Lake Benbrook, where water levels remain at record lows, business owners and lake visitors are wondering where it all went.
“It’s normally 12 feet where we’re standing,” said Ron Rogers, whose 166 boat slips are usually 90 percent full at this time of year.
Rogers started pulling boats out in July. But eight owners didn’t make it in time: The lake is now down 17 feet from its normal level, shattering the previous record low set in Jan. 2006.
Those eight boats are stuck in the dirt where they were previously tied up.
The crippling drought and evaporation are partly to blame. But the city of Weatherford has pumped three quarters of a billion gallons out of the lake to fill Lake Weatherford, and a gas company drains the lake to aid in hydraulic fracturing.
“I don’t know who’s getting paid for that, but I know we’re not,” Rogers said. “I know we’re losing massive amounts of money every day.”
A pump line leads toward natural gas wells that are operated by Devon Energy – two of a planned 34 in the area – that use up to 3 million gallons of lake water when they frack for gas.
It was one of the first things Michael Herbert noticed when he brought his nephew out to fish.
“Why would they be pumping water out of here?” He asked. “Everybody’s on water restrictions except, apparently, the oil companies.”
Some businesses have already had to give up. Areas that used to be marinas have dried up. Cows now graze in the south end of the lake. Parts of the lake that housed boats for 13 years are now empty; the owner had to quit.
Rogers is hoping he can outlast the shrinking lake. He depends on water, but has recently started trying to give away all his new dirt to deepen the marina, in case water levels never return to what they were.
“We’re having to have money come out of our pocket every month,” he said.
Tarrant Regional Water District officials said the water use is legal, and Devon said it is in constant contact with the department and uses recycled water to frack when it can.