St. Francis Lake drawn way down

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

PAYNEWAY, ARKANSAS (KAIT) --The St. Francis lake is a part of the St. Francis Wildlife Management Area. It's drainage area is a popular hunting and fishing area, but now the lake has been drawn down quite a ways. Why?

It's another case of the hands of springtime flooding still holding things down.

The problem was during the floods there was a lot of water with only limited places to run to, in, and around Payneway. When it couldn't drain out of the Swift Ditch the lake waters carved it's own paths.

Now the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is trying to fix a problem before hunting season begins.

Michael Austin is the President of the St. Francis Lake Association, he was out at the flood gates looking over the damage being repaired.

Austin, "Dead End Ditch washed out through the levee here which has a handicap accessible road. So when that washed out, it diverted the water around the lock system here." Austin said there was so much water coming out of the lake it was flowing backwards toward the North.

The flooding carved out a new ditch about 20 or so feet deep as it made it's new path from Dead End Ditch. The Game and Fish commission has contracted repair work on the break.

The road is primarily designated for handicapped hunters to get into the woods. But after the spring floods unless you had a monster 4 wheel drive you couldn't use it.

Normally you couldn't stand on the bottom of the Swift ditch below the flood gates. Monday they opened them up to draw the lake down. If I had had my hip waders on I could have walked up and touched the gates with the water so low.

Austin said there is no real leak in the lake itself but the water had to come down.

Austin, "To get the water level down so the flow would actually be coming down Swift Ditch instead of going down Dead End Ditch."

There was still water moving down the wash out even with the on going repairs being done by a bull dozer and track hoe. The operator of the bulldozer told me they were fighting ground water instead of ditch water because the ground was so saturated.

Austin says they have a very large hole to fill.

Austin, "They have acquired the gumbo mud to fill in the hole. And then they are going to put in rip rap in and secure all of it. That way it will keep all the water going the way it's supposed to and maintain the water level on the lake."

Game and Fish notices posted around the area say they expect the levels to be lowered until at least October Twelfth or until the repairs are completed.

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