KANOPOLIS, Kan. (AP) - Thanks to the extended drought, water levels at several lakes across Kansas are considerably lower than they should be, which could affect Memorial Day weekend plans.
Memorial Day weekend in Kansas is usually the busiest lake holiday of the year, and that includes at Kanopolis, where more than 15,000 lake visitors gather to camp, fish and boat, said Dan Hayes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for Kanopolis and Wilson reservoirs.
But water levels at Kanopolis are low, and across the western half of the state, other lakes are also reporting low levels, The Hutchinson News reported.
For Kanopolis, the extensive drought means dredging an area of the lake for the fourth time in 35 years in an effort to open the lake for tourism, said Rick Martin, who supervises several lakes for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. He noted age also is creeping up on Kansas' oldest reservoir as sedimentation issues increase.
Kansas is starting its third year of the widespread drought that also grips much of the Great Plains and western U.S. In fact, Kansas is one of the hardest-hit states, with about 50 percent of the acreage rated as extreme to exceptional -- the highest ratings given by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
With little water coming from the sky, drought has zapped the life from many Kansas waters. Streams are flowing at all-time lows. Some farm ponds are dry, causing farmers to haul water to cattle or move them.
At Marion Reservoir, the lake is nearly 3 feet below its conservation pool level, and a couple boat ramps are closed. Cedar Bluff is 22 feet below its conservation pool level. Webster is down nearly 13 feet.
At more than 6.5 feet down, Cheney is only at 64 percent capacity, leaving only one of seven boat ramps open, said Park Ranger Brian Haug. He also said those who aren't familiar with the lake should take it slow because "there are hazards out there. Out in the middle of the lake they will have a lot less issues than near the shoreline."
Haug said that while Cheney has come up about 1.5 feet in the past two months, he expected attendance to be down from the average.
"If we could catch a few good rains, it would make a difference," he said.