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Despite rain, effects of drought continue to linger at area lakes

By Jessica Ferguson
Dec. 3, 2012 at 10 p.m.

The houseboat grounded at Johnson Creek Marina on Lake O' the Pines tells the story of what is happening on area lakes.

The floating cabin is moored in about five feet of water.

Sam and Lyda Edwards, who have owned the marina for eight years, say they have seen worse.

"Last year it was about six inches lower," Sam Edwards said.

Plentiful rain earlier this year and predictions of an El Nino pattern setting in gave the marina owners hope, even if it was short-lived. A drier-than-normal fall has sent East Texas into a mild drought.

Caddo Lake is slightly more than half full, and though there is eight feet of water in front of the docks at Johnson Creek Marina, the boat ramps have been closed for months. The Edwards can only watch helplessly as the water level keeps going down.

"We get a lot of calls - last year and this year," Lyda Edwards said. "A lot of people think there's no water in the lake. There is water - it's just extremely low."

Ruben Solis, director of surface water resources with the Texas Water Development Board, said rainfall is below average so reservoir levels are on a decline across the state.

Lakes in the board's Northeast Texas planning region- including Lake Bob Sandlin, Caddo Lake, and Lake O' the Pines- are normally near full this time of year, Solis said. As of Monday, the regional average was reported at 79 percent full.

Caddo Lake - which straddles the Texas-Louisiana border - is one of the lowest in the region at 54 percent full.

Lake O' the Pines, which is usually above 95 percent full at this time, is at about 70 percent of capacity.

Lake Bob Sandlin and Martin Creek Lake are about 70 to 75 percent full as compared to their usual 90 percent, Solis said.

While East Texas lake levels are lower than normal, they are in better shape than the rest of the state.

"Other reservoirs in Texas are well below 10 percent full, some are completely empty," Solis said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lake Cherokee is 99 percent full – and that is still below the norm,said Lake Manager Ned Muse.

The winter precipitation forecast remains uncertain.

"We are in a neutral position," Solis said, "Forecasters are unsure of whether we will go into an El Nino, La Nina, or stay neutral."

According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released Nov. 15 by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is no drought posted or predicted through Feb. 28.

"There is no solid forecast as far as a drought outlook for East Texas," Solis said. "There isn't a very optimistic forecast at this point."

Muse said he hopes that conditions change, but doesn't foresee any "real problems" unless they continue for a long time.

"Long-term, we are all at the mercy of the weather," he said.

At Johnson Creek Marina, Sam Edwards is watching the receding water – and hoping.

"If we don't' get any rain before spring – we will be in pretty good trouble."



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