A massive fish kill along the lower Illinois River last fall caused by low dissolved oxygen levels and high water temperatures forced officials from several entities to put their heads together and come up with a workable temporary fix until a permanent solution is reached.
Members of the Gore Chamber of Commerce met Wednesday and tabled their normal meeting to hear an update on the situation that so greatly impacts the town of Gore.
Representatives from the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers, Southwestern Power Administration and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have long been in agreement that the problems causing the fish kill will take a unified effort to resolve.
The unified effort resulted in a planned pipeline system that will transfer water from Lake Tenkiller to the mouth of the sluice gate through a 36-inch pipe with an 18-inch valve.
Kent Dunlap, Tulsa District Corps of Engineers, explained the contract for the pipeline system was awarded Aug. 28.
Dunlap said the system is a special order project and will take some time to manufacture.
Work on the pipeline should begin this fall and be completed by late January.
Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation, East Central Region Fishery Supervisor Jim Burroughs detailed the monitoring system they have installed in the river to monitor the dissolved oxygen levels and the temperatures.
Dissolved oxygen levels and water temperatures must remain in close parameters to maintain an environment conducive to a healthy fish habitat.
The healthy fish habitat is necessary for Gore’s economic health, according to Horace Lindley, town administrator.
“The monitoring system is partially in place,” Burroughs said. “With the data we collect we can see the effects of what we are doing in the river.”
Burroughs again explained oxygenating the water is more complicated than an aquarium bubbler.
He said the low flow pipeline system is critical to help conserve the very limited water storage available to the fishery.
As an even more temporary fix SWPA has released water and used it’s turbines to oxygenate the water even when they are not producing electricity.
“This is very helpful, but it is releasing more water than we actually need. That’s wasting what we can’t afford to waste,” Burroughs said.
“We are continuing to push for long term water allocation,” Burroughs said.
All the parties involved agree that a federally mandated water allocation for the express use of the fishery is the only long-term solution.
They also agree until that can be arranged, the pipeline is the best fix for the time being.