Record High Water Causes Major Economic Disruption

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Excessive spring rains in the region broke the record 738.72 mean sea level of Harry S. Truman Lake that was set in 1986. On Thursday evening, May 30, the mean sea level rose to 738.88, and the water had not crested yet. The water was expected to crest at 739.71 on June 4, about 30 plus feet higher than its normal level. Truman Dam began releasing water on Tuesday evening, May 28, and as of Friday, May 31 was releasing it at a rate of 24,000 cubic feet per second. The Corps of Engineers reported that May had been the second highest monthly inflow to Truman Lake in project history.
The economic impact of flooding is already a reality as some Truman Lake marinas have had to close and others are offering limited services. Rich Chiles, Acting Operations Project Manager with the Kansas City Region of the Corps of Engineers, said that it will take several months, depending on weather patterns and other parts of the puzzle, for a calmness to resume on the lake.  He said that there should be some relief if there is dry weather in the next few weeks. But our area is affected by weather in other parts of the state as well as local precipitation. Truman Lake flows into Lake of the Ozarks which releases into the Osage River, which then feeds into the Missouri River. Flooding in these other waterways affects us too, and the amount of water the Truman Dam is able to release is dependent on what the flow is on the Missouri River in Hermann, as well as the Osage River in St. Thomas. Both of those rivers currently have a high flow. There is also a system of dams that are releasing flood waters at this time.
Lisa and Rick bought Truman State Park Marina last September and looked forward to a busy spring and summer season. As of Thursday, flooding at the marina meant that no boat ramps were available and the rest rooms were shut down. However, they were shuttling people out to their boats or rentals so that customers could still have a good time on the lake.
“We are trying to keep the boat rentals going, but that is subject to change,” said Lisa. “Anyone who wants to get out on the water we will help. At the Corps information meeting last night (May 29) they said that the water would probably go up a little, but when it goes down some we can get gas and open rest rooms again. If it goes down a little further, then ramps and parking will be available again. Our electricity is high enough that it is okay, but I know some other marinas are losing their electricity.”
KY3 reported online that Sterett Creek Marina, owned by Ken and Cathy Beyer, was only about 40 percent above water last week. Cathy said that the best way to tour their 100 campsites, 250-slip marina and 40 motel rooms was by boat. She said to be closed in June is even more devastating than being closed memorial Day Weekend, and that they wouldn’t be able to recover this year.
Long Shoal Marina left a message for callers stating that they would shuttle people to their boats from 8 AM to 4 PM.
Cody’s Bait Tackle on Cold Springs Avenue in Warsaw was getting the same number of customers until the Wednesday night Corps meeting informing the local community about  the risk of rising water. Then, the shop’s owner said that the customers slowed down because they were afraid to get out on the lake.
David Kolarik, Public Affairs Officer (PA) for the Corps of Engineers said last week that the Lake of the Ozarks was not a concern at that time, but that it could be depending on precipitation.
As of the end of the week, those on Lake of the Ozarks still seemed unaffected by the flooding on Truman Lake. John Ely who lives in Doc’s Retreat, a Turkey Creek Landowner Association, said that there was no danger of water getting in his yard.
Kevin, of White Branch Marina, located one and a half miles from the Hwy 65 bridge, with 740 feet of waterfront land, said that he had a great Memorial Day weekend, but several people contacted him May 30 to pull their boats when they heard that the water might rise. Kevin said that at the present time the ramps are in good shape, but if the water rises the poles on the docks could be pulled out. 
“I would like for them (Corps) to keep running a little water, a constant flow, to keep it from rising too much,” said Kevin. “I know that other states have had problems like this too, like Nebraska.”
The Benton County Commissioners and Emergency Management are conducting daily meetings with the Corps of Engineers to keep current on the status of the lake, flooding, and other current related information. A concise, informative report is updated daily on the Emergency Management website at for the public to access. The site gives the current lake level, camp ground closings, some road closings and safety precautions. Presiding County Commissioner Steve Daleske recommends this site as the most accurate public point of contact.
 Commissioner Daleske reported that as of Friday, May 31, two roads in the north district and two roads in the south district were closed to through traffic, but drivers would not be hemmed in and could enter or leave. Bell Avenue and Houk Avenue, near TT Hwy and C Hwy, in the north district are closed. Williams Avenue (down CC Hwy), and Mohawk, near Hwy 83, in the Wisdom area are closed in the south district.
One family living near Williams Avenue reported that they had to go to Raven Road to get to Williams, and that it was best to have a four-wheel drive on Raven.
The Corps closed the road over Truman Dam on May 28 because of unsafe practices by drivers and pedestrians who were taking photos of the spillway over the rails.
The east side of the spillway was closed last week, but the west side was open to numerous fishermen. One such man, Bill, from Raymore, said that he took the day off to come to the dam for some good fishing caused by the rushing released water.
The Corps has stressed that boaters be on the lookout for floating debris on and under the water, and that personal floatation devices be worn. It also warned drivers not to walk or drive into flood waters on the road.
When asked about the safety of the dam, David Kolarik, PA, said that the integrity of the dam was structurally sound and performing like it was designed to perform. Rich Chiles said that there were 60 full time people on the project, and that the integrity of the dam was being checked hourly.