LAVON LAKE (CBSDFW.COM) – Despite continued water restrictions in North Texas, the floodgates at Lavon Lake opened this morning, allowing water to gush through the dam downstream for the first time since 2009. Collin County residents were outraged.
“It kind of seems like a waste of water with the water restrictions. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Carol Birkett, a Collin County resident.
The scars from the worst drought in Texas history remain. Residents are still tending to grass and plants that did not survive, home foundations that needed repair, and home pools that lost inches of water due to the heat.
Recent rains brought new hope for homeowners like Tracy Molesworth.
“We are grateful for the rain. The water restrictions – I think they could let up a little bit. The lake is -what? One foot over now?” said Molesworth. “Can’t they do something with that water and let us use it?”
In fact, they can’t. With the lake close to one foot over the conservation level, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required by law to release the excess water.
Residents say they’ve been asked to conserve water for months, and the Corps of Engineers should too.
The Corps monitors lake levels, weather forecasts and looks at flood control operations at several nearby lakes and reservoirs to determine how much water is released from Lavon Lake.
“It’s a lot safer for us to release at this stage than when we have additional water piling up behind the dam and we have to release a larger amount,” said Eric Pederson, a project manager for the Trinity River Project as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The North Texas Municipal Water District asked the Corps to keep as much water in the lake as possible, as yet another North Texas summer approaches.
But the Corps’ first priority is flood control and federal regulations mandate they release excess water from the lake. Still, the 2 entitiies reached a comproomise. Water at the lake is sitting at 493.3 feet above sea level.
“Instead of lowering the level to 492, which is the conservation pool, we’re lowering it down to 492.7,” Pederson said, “To meet the needs of our partners but also to balance the needs of our flood control mission.”
The North Texas Municipal Water district relaxed its water restrictions at a meeting Thursday night, which would allow the cities it serves to water once a week instead of once every 2 weeks. It’s a step forward for residents but the NTMWD warns North Texans that conservation is the new normal. Twenty-eight percent of the water supply comes from Lake Texoma, which is inaccessible right now because of an infestation of zebra mussels. Conservation measures will be in place until Lake Texoma can be used as resource again and that likely won’t be until 2013.
Residents like Molesworth are hoping more rain this summer with wash away last summers’ bad memories.
“It’s frustrating. But we live in Texas so you get what you get,” Molesworth said.
The NTMWD will monitor lake levels and the water supply monthly to see if restrictions can be relaxed any further.