Waurika Lake silt removal ahead of schedule, under budget

Waurika Lake silt removal ahead of schedule, under budget
Photo of the silt removal at Waurika Lake from Nov. 11, 2015. (Source KSWO)
Photo of the silt removal at Waurika Lake from Nov. 11, 2015. (Source KSWO)

WAURIKA LAKE, OK (KSWO) -A project aimed at saving a lake that provides waters to six area cities, including Lawton, is nearing completion, ahead of schedule and under budget.

Work started in November to remove tons of silt and sediment that had settled at the bottom of Waurika Lake. It was blocking the mechanisms that pull the water from the lake and into the various pipelines that led to each town's water treatment plant. Officials had warned that if the silt was not removed, there would no access to the water, so all the cities who use Waurika Lake split the $10 million cost.

Waurika Lake Manager Dave Taylor is very pleased with the results of the project so far. He's calling it "the most cost efficient investment" to being prepared for droughts that Southwest Oklahoma will face in the future.

The old gates were made of cast iron more than 40 years ago and have rusted after being submerged in the waters of Waurika Lake. The new gates that are being put in place are made of stainless steel, which doesn't rust. Taylor says when it comes to the dredging project, there is only a little bit of work left to do.

"Finish the work on the underwater pipeline and that is being done now for the entrance for it. The gates have to be installed and then we have to start up," Taylor explained.

Taylor says because they were able to use local contractors, they expect to save about $600,000 on the project.

"It was really three parallel efforts. We had to do the permitting. Do the design and engineering and the financing all in three parallel lines. If that wouldn't have happened, we wouldn't be where we are today," Taylor said.

Taylor says the money that was saved is earmarked to be used at the lake. It will save the six cities who helped pay for the project from having to be saddled with more repairs in the near future. The final decision on where the money will be spent will be decided by the cities and the lake board.

"We have got roadways to fix. We've got roofs to fix. We have got some places where the pipes join together that need some repair and those are simply projects that happen as an infrastructure like this gets older," Taylor explained.

Taylor says now that the work is almost complete, he believes the lake will be able to better serve its intended vision when building started on it in 1963.

"This entire region would never again have to worry about where their water was coming from and we are maintaining that vision and we have re-established that vision," Taylor said.

Taylor says once the project is completed, all that is left to be done is filling in the holding cells with dirt that are currently holding the silt that has been dredged off the bottom of the lake.

Taylor says with the 25,000 acre feet of water they gained from the project, they recovered the equivalent of a $50 million lake for a significantly lower price.

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