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Reservoir water nears record level

Staff writer

Water levels at Marion Reservoir came within 1¾ feet of the July 1993 water line record of 1,358.87.

The water line crossed 1,357.1 feet Friday afternoon, before cresting at 1,357.17 feet Sunday afternoon, the third highest in history.

While the county is set for clear weather for the week, the reservoir is unlikely to start releasing water before the next storm, assistant lake manager Kevin McCoy said.

“My hope is that we don’t reach that,” he said. “Some records don’t need to be beaten.”

The water line is 8 feet above the conservation pool, which McCoy said denotes normal pool elevations.

“When you’re dealing with a reservoir, it’s a game of inches,” he said.

As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, water levels were 1½ feet below the top of the gates, but the dam extends up another 9½ feet.

“If they start draining it now, it would make the rivers really interesting,” Marion resident Cody Carr said Friday.

The reservoir is holding back from releasing water because John Redmond Reservoir remains extremely high, McCoy said.

“Most people think the flood is over when the rivers go back into their channels,” he said. “They think the flood is over and everything is calm. That’s not necessarily the case when you deal with flood risk management. We’re still right in the middle of it.”

The reservoir is at 80 percent capacity, or 42,379,196,110 gallons, enough to supply one standard bottle of drinking water per person to every person in the U.S. until March 10 of next year.

Seeing the water so high wasn’t a surprise, Carr said Friday.

“I was expecting it to be worse,” he said. “I’ve seen it worse before. The water was clear up to the road many years ago.”

One boat ramp is open at Marion Cove, but tree brush should be the primary concern for boaters, McCoy said.

“There’s a lot of downed woody debris that’s blown down and sat for years on the edge of the lake,” he said. “It’s now available to float out into the water. It’s not all small stuff, we definitely urge caution.”

While the rains drove fish into new areas of the lake, temperature was also important, Carr said Friday.

“There’s not much activity,” he said. “The water is still too cold from the rain Thursday.”

Water control has no effect on bridge construction, or vice versa, McCoy said.

With how full the reservoir is, campsites will probably remain closed through Memorial Day, McCoy said.

“Even though we’re never sure what that storm will do, we might close the gates and allow the storm to happen,” he said. “Then we don’t have a channel full of water, and an artificial flood because it rained another 2 inches. There are a lot of skilled people crunching a lot of numbers.”

Last modified May 16, 2019

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