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Water at Smithville Lake more than 2 feet lower than normal

Posted at 7:33 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-25 23:54:00-04

SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Severe drought conditions have led to low water levels at Smithville Lake and affected both boater safety and businesses in the area.

Officials said water levels are around two and a half feet lower than normal as a result of the lack of rain this summer.

On Wednesday, Clay County park ranger John Davis gave 41 Action News a tour of the lake and showed signs of the drought.

He pointed to water lines along the shoreline that now have multiple feet of space between them.

“There’s a lot of obstructions that have surfaced and newer obstructions we didn’t know about in the water,” he explained. “Inexperienced boaters have been getting stuck or tearing up their motors.”

Small islands exist now that weren’t there before and beachgoers can sit in areas close to the lake that normally would be under water.

Davis made a stop outside of a beach on the lake with swimmers much further out than usual.

“It’s probably about knee deep right now,” said the officer who stands around six feet high. “It’s normally about shoulder deep.”

With the water levels so low, Davis said the lake was seeing a drop in business.

“If we charge daily fees to come into the beach and there’s not enough water, people aren’t going to come in,” he explained.

Davis added that the drought has led to more dangers for boaters.

Creston Witte removed his boat from the water on Wednesday evening.

After operating boats on Smithville Lake for the last 20 years, Witte said this summer stood out from the rest.

“You’re seeing trees now that you’ve never noticed before,” he explained. “It’s kind of hard to navigate as it is and now we’re hitting stumps that weren’t there before.”

Seeing the impacts of this year’s drought led Davis to worry about the possible long-term impacts.

“There could be water restrictions,” he said. “It could be low enough that we shut down boat ramps because they can’t load boats in the water.”

Moving forward, Witte said some rain could go a long way at Smithville Lake.

“You’re definitely seeing trees you’ve never seen before and lower water levels,” he said. “Rain would be very beneficial at this point.”