High water level at Table Rock Lake hurts local businesses

Sunday, May 25, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Many of the marinas, resorts and cafes around Table Rock Lake are open and eagerly awaiting the summer crowds that start Memorial Day weekend.

Other businesses aren't doing quite as well.

The reason? High water leftover from flooding in March.

Table Rock Lake, which reached a historic high after rising 16 feet in March, is still about 12 feet above normal, leaving campgrounds and walkways underwater.

"We've been turning away business all season and had to cancel Memorial Day weekend," said Tim Stone, who owns 76 campsites at Mike Hideaway Roaring River Campground near Eagle Rock. "I've canceled out to the first week of June because I don't see it going down any."

Stone says he typically has about 330 guests on Memorial Day weekend and figures he'll lose about a third of his income from the year being closed.

He isn't alone.

The nine-unit Big Bobber Resort near Shell Knob has taken just two reservations so far. The Port Grill and Oyster Bar at Campbell Point near Shell knob, a floating cafe with 30 crew members, can't open for business until the lake drops about four feet.

But the water, which reached an all-time high of 933.25 feet above sea level in March, isn't going anywhere soon.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say it'll likely be mid-June before Table Rock drops to the 925 or 922 feet it needs to reach to restore washed-out walkways and campgrounds. It will likely be mid-July before the lake reaches its normal conservation pool level of 917 feet.

Of course, that's only if the lake gets its normal amount of rainfall. Get more heavy rains and it'll take longer.

The problem is that Table Rock is part of a series of lakes on the White River that are operated as part of a system instead of as single bodies of water.

Table Rock is part of the Corps' White River Basin Water Control Plan, designed to control flooding in the White River valley and protect downriver soybean and rice farms.

Releasing water at the lakes is determined by the river level in the town of Newport, Ark., where it's still well above regulation stage. Most of the lakes in the system are still nearly full, meaning no water can be released anywhere until the river goes down in Newport.

"People don't like to hear this, but the lakes were built for the protection of those agricultural lands," said Corps Lake Manager Greg Oller.

That's not good news for businesses around the lake.

While high gas prices have had some effect on businesses around Table Rock, it's the high water that's left them out to dry.

"In the past, the high prices haven't stopped anybody, Stone said. But add the inconvenience of not having your favorite campsite to come to ... and all that combined is going to make it very, very tough."

Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.springfieldnews-leader.com

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