Lake Norfork at a 20 Year Low

January 13, 2006 -- Posted at 5:16 p.m.  


MOUNTAIN VIEW, AR -- Water levels at Lake Norfork are currently at a twenty year low.  The lake that usually stands at 552 feet above sea level is now down by 15 feet.


Now, fifteen feet may not sound like much... but consider this: a lot of the business done in the area is conducted on the lake.  And now this town that is usually busy -- even during the winter -- is now more like a ghost town.


“Probably the main reason is the lake is lower because this area of the Ozarks is in a drought situation,” said Jon Heiser of the Army Corps of Engineers.  


“There's still plenty of water out there as far as recreational use on warmer days.  Folks want to go out and fish.  They just have to be a little more cautious,” said Heiser.


Heiser said that boaters are warned to be extra cautious because of the lower lake levels.

In addition, many of the marinas in the area have to make adjustments as well.


“A lot of them have had to move docks and maybe move some of those docks into areas that they've not had to do that in years,” said


Some of the marinas have had to close up shop until the lake gets higher.


This is the lowest level that the lake has been at since 1954 and if it doesn't rain soon, the effect on the economy could be very bad.  


“I think if lake levels don’t rise, the economy could see some fluctuation of people coming here to enjoy the water sports,” said Kathy Rothering.


“We're hoping -- keep our fingers crossed -- we'll get some rainfall.  In the spring, early summer are the wettest months,” said Heiser.


Rainfall is the only thing that can help replenish the lake, “The state overall is about 16 inches behind and I think locally there are areas that are probably greater than that,” said Jon Heiser.


“We need a lot of rain.  We've had burn bans on for quite some time so we need some rain relief,” said Rothering.


Lake Norfork is one of seventeen reservoirs that supplies power in Arkansas.  Each of the reservoirs are balanced against each other and are all very low right now.


“This is not anything.  It may be unusual, a lot of people may have not seen it this low before, but it's certainly within the operating perimeter,” said Heiser.


But this cloud may have a silver lining.  Mountain Home and surrounding areas get their drinking water from Lake Norfork and now have the opportunity to put their pipes lower into the ground.