Bull Shoals Spillway releases May 26, 2020
By Randall TownsendMay 30, 2020
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District makes spillway releases from Bull Shoals Dam in Arkansas and southern Missouri on May 26, 2020.The total controlled release from the spillway gates and hydropower is approximately 13,250 cubic feet per second.Hydro release = 9500 c.f.s.Spillway release = 3750 c.f.s.The Corps is advising areas downstream of the dam to begin assessing their respective plans and to begin taking the proper precautions. Landowners with belongings near the river’s edge should also begin making plans for high water.Flood damage reduction lakes work by capturing runoff in their “flood pools” during heavy rain. After rivers downstream begin receding, water is released in a controlled fashion following pre-determined “operating plans.” Without the lakes, all that water would roll downriver at one time. Flood crests would rise higher and spread over more land, thus causing more damage and possibly loss of life. The water stored in the flood pool must be evacuated in preparation for the next storm as quickly as downstream conditions permit without creating additional flooding. The difficulty with repeated rain is engineers are not always able to release all the water captured in the flood pool between rains. This can cause lake levels to rise with each new rainfall. When that occurs, it can sometimes take many months to empty the huge volumes of water from the flood pools and return all the lakes to their “conservation pools.”It is worth noting the lakes are not intended to prevent all flooding. The lakes have limitations that Mother Nature can exceed. Therefore, downstream property owners should be judicious in how they develop land within the flood plains. Floods are not as frequent because of the dams, and when they do occur, they are typically not as severe as they were before the dams were built. But there will still be occasions when significant floods occur downstream of these dams. Planting crops on land that floods on occasion might be profitable in the long run. Building a home or business on that same land might not be. Farming, running a business, or having a home in the flood plain of a river is a risk that each landowner accepts.Six White River Basin lakes are operated together as a system to reduce the frequency and severity of floods. These lakes are Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry and Clearwater. Beaver, Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes are in a row along the main stem of the White River in Arkansas and Missouri. Norfork Lake is on the North Fork River, which empties into the White River near the town of Norfork in north central Arkansas. Clearwater Lake is on the Black River near Piedmont, Missouri. The Black River’s confluence with the White River is near Jacksonport, Ark. Greers Ferry Lake is on the Little Red River near Heber Springs, Ark. The Little Red’s confluence with the White River is near Georgetown, Ark.The Corps does not have the legal authority to manage lake levels for recreation. The Corps is bound under the law to follow the White River Water Control Plan, which dictates how the system is operated.