Events for the next three weekends at Wappapello Lake are being re-scheduled, according to natural resources specialist and park ranger Andrew Jefferson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"The problem is not so much the water going down," Jefferson said. "We will have to have time for clean-up. The picnic areas and restrooms are all under water on the lake side."
The Timberfest Woodland Expo was to have been held May 6 and 7. But, it will have to be re-scheduled. Kids to Parks Day was scheduled for Saturday, May 13. That, too, will be held at a later date. "Music in the Park" was planned for Saturday, May 20. It will also be held at a later date.
So far, Jefferson said this year's flooding pales in comparison to the 2011 flood. He attributes that to the fact that places downstream from the lake were drier this time. The Army Corps of Engineers regulates the release of water to points further downstream. That is determined by the St. Louis District Corps of Engineers. According to Jefferson, the dam and auxiliary spillway are in good condition and performing as they were designed.
Jefferson cautioned against listening to rumors.
"There are have been several rumors about the dam leaking or cracking," Jefferson said. "Those are only rumors! Everything is operating accordingly."
Jefferson explained the thought process behind releasing water when there's flooding taking place.
"We're releasing 16,000 cubic feet per second. The Water Control Office in St. Louis determines how much to release," Jefferson said. "That is also coordinated with people downstream."
Back in 2011, a second storm came through the area that the Corps of Engineers was not expecting. However, there has been damage associated with the flooding event.
"The new section of Highway T is gone now south of the spillway," Jefferson said. "That's the new portion of T Highway that replaced the section that was washing in 2011. This portion that was taken out this time is only a portion of that new section."
Since 2011, nine concrete culverts were installed in that area to allow water to flow backwards.
"They were already back-filled and that caused the water to eddy, or circle," Jefferson said. "But there was water on the backside of the culvert that was not from the rain, but the discharge from the gatehouse in the controlled release."
The Redmon Creek Picnic area is currently flooded. At Greenville, the entire campground and day use area are all under several feet of water.
"They have been underwater since Monday," Jefferson said. "If you drive across the new bridge, the water was only a few feet below the bridge—and that bridge is 25 feet tall!"
To keep sightseers safe, Jefferson explained that people who wanted to see all of the flooding were allowed to do so—but only in a controlled fashion.
"Lots of folks are curious to see this happen," Jefferson said. "They permitted people to drive across the dam from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to the Visitor's Center to take pictures yesterday and the same way for the south end. They could meet at the Little Brushy Church and they would drive people to the Redmond Creek Picnic area to look around," Jefferson said.
He explained that this time around, the flooding has been a bit perplexing.
"We have photos from back in 1945 when another major flood happened. We thought we'd never see something like that again," Jefferson said. "Then 2011 happened and they said it was a 100-year-flood. All of a sudden here we go again in 2017, just six years later," he said. "Somebody miscalculated… or we're in a time warp!"
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