PROCTOR LAKE — If you thought you might drop an anchor in Proctor Lake by Labor Day — forget it — it’s not going to happen. You wouldn’t want to go there anyway.
Floating balls of fire ants and partially submerged debris are everywhere. Flood damages to the parks and other areas are estimated to be in the $2 million range, and besides that there are problems with the dam.
Not to worry though — there is no immediate danger and remedial measures are being taken thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers. The lake is still doing what it was built for, which is controlling floods.
Proctor Lake officials say there is no need of fingers to plug holes in the dam, although about 1,000 feet of the “toe” is experiencing seep holes. Residents should not be concerned about immediate damage because the seepage is being controlled no matter what rumors might be circulating.
Lake officials held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to explain exactly what is going on with the dam and why they are sandbagging the “toe.” The area is about 400 feet east of the floodgates and is between stations 45 and 55. The lake is at its second highest pool since its construction in 1963. Not since the flood of 1992 has the lake experienced such levels.
Jose Hernandez, dam safety officer for the Army Corp of Engineers, gave an in-depth look at conditions that have caused the massive area of seepage to occur.
Hernandez said seepage occurs at most dams and is “normal” but not usually for the wide stretch being seen at Proctor.
“All dams have seepage,” Hernandez said. “There is no way to stop it. Most goes through the embankment.”
Controlling seepage at the time of construction usually has to do with economics, Hernandez said. Most of the time in order to control seepage in the “deepest part of the valley a core trench is built with a filter and blanket drainage,” Hernandez said. In the case of the Proctor dam a core trench was built “but very small” and “with no filter.” Hernandez referred to the area as the “terrace section.”
The elevation of the lake has been at 1,190 feet for more than a month.
“The pool is very high,” Hernandez said. “This has only happened three times.”
Hernandez said for most of the lake’s history pool has been at 1,167 to 1,170 feet. And in 1992, when it did get to the current levels, it did not remain there for such a long time.
“We’ve been there more than a month,” Hernandez said.
The seepage was discovered July Fourth and a pump was used to flow water away from the dam “toe” area in order to determine if the water occurring was seepage or due to runoff from the rains experienced all over the area.
It was determined the water was indeed due to “seep holes” no more than pinhead size. But, a lot of them, Hernandez said, and he estimated about a hundred holes.
Officials said “conservation pool” is 1,162 feet. When the water hits the 1,175 feet mark the dam is inspected daily and that’s where officials are now. They are inspecting the dam every 24 hours.
Lake records show the levels were at 1,197 feet in 1990 and 1,190 feet in 1992.
“For the rest of history it’s never been over 1,180 feet,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said there is a large safety factor figured into the dam so he’s not worried about the integrity of the dam. He said if he were seeing seep holes occur in the slope of the dam or what’s know as the “dam face” he would be getting a lot more excited.
For now, the water is just flowing through the foundation of the dam. And nothing is happening on the west side of the dam because the land elevation is higher and not effected by the high pool.
Due to the seepage, lake officials began seeking permission to drain more water from the lake. Friday afternoon they were releasing 5,000 cubic feet per second from seven gates in the dam that were about one half foot open and another gate that was about one quarter of a foot open.
Scouts were sent to survey the area downstream from the lake to make sure that the water would not create too much damage downstream.
Currently, officials said, some dirt roads in Comanche County are underwater with some bridges experiencing erosion and they know of some cattle stranded near Gustine. County judges and emergency personnel were notified of the release of water.
In the last two weeks, officials said the lake has gone down four feet and will drop even at a faster rate soon but currently the water level is dropping about seven inches a day.
Without more rain lake officials said they would be in “good shape” and forecast the lake will return to the normal pool of 1,161 feet around Aug. 6 or 7.
It was predicted that the Sowell Creek Bridge would be out of the flooding range around July 27 but would need time to dry out before it could be reopened.
Anyone that would like a courtesy call before water is released should call 254-879- 2424
Hernandez said when the water goes down lake officials will be seeking a more permanent solution to the seepage whether it be a “toe drain” or “relief wells.”