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Can someone educate me on Bull Shoals Lake please. Quick google search shows it was created for ‘flood control’. From what I can see looking at the gauge data, Corp of Engineer lakes that I am familiar with in MS that were created for flood control are managed ALOT different.
Gauge data shows Bull Shoals has a full pool level of 659 but it appears they do not like to take the level much below full pool (caution, I’ve only looked at last three years data). Corps of Engineer Reservoirs in MS are commonly taken 15-20’ below full pool elevations during the winter in anticipation of spring rains. Why is this not a common practice on Bull Shoals?
It seems like the management of Bull Shoals is to keep it a full pool all winter long then send extra releases all summer long down the white river. Something has to change with their water management or we will have cypress and willow trees on the downstream floodplains in 10 years.
 

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The topography and function of the lake differ for each project.

Bull Shoals and the White River system are managed for flood control. The lakes were built using climate data for the 1940s and 1950s. Climate, without getting political, has changed since then. Rain patterns are different, and so is heat distribution. The campgrounds and boat ramps were placed using the data of the time the lake was built.

Look for the bright spots, like bass spawn is more successful with the water in the brush. Also the coves are bigger for pulling in your pontoon.

Big negative is the marina parking at Least Hill Park. That sucks!
 

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Well, if they are holding water at the max possible, I'd say that IS flood control. They're controlling downstream flooding.

Nimrod (the first COE lake here, 1947) is notorious. It's at level of 18+ feet high, and it's like that nearly every spring. First, they can't release too much water even if they wanted to, because the Ark River is high and rolling and almost flooding. Nowhere for the Fourche river to go. Second, lowering the lake to normal level would flood everybody from the dam to the Ark River.

No idea about Bull Shoals. But we've had tons of rain and letting it all go downstream at one time would flood farms. Just the normal rain we've had, without considering lakes backing up, is devastating. Our farm lessor has lost 50% of crops already to floods, hail, and wind.
 

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Bull shoals = hydropower and minimum flow for trout + flood control + water supply

Mississippi lakes = flood control and water supply. There is no “power pool” in the MS lakes - means they dont have to store water for later use. Get it and dump it as long as not too high downstream.
 

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I live up here and it is certainly different than it was say 30 years ago. They have enacted the minimum flow to keep trout from dying in the hot summertime. The lake is pretty high right now. I haven't looked online but we drove over across the dam the other evening and its pretty darn high. They used to drop it down in the winter months a fair amount and that way when the spring rains came it didnt take all summer to get the level back down. Nowadays it seems they hold it and hold it and finally wheh you think its at max and is basically touching the bottom of the flood gates they let er rip. All that water in the lake floods green timber all along the shoreline. It makes for a great fish hatch but the fishing when its flooded isnt nearly as good and you would think otherwise. Bull Shoals is the last impoundment on the White River chain and the other lakes above dont hold a lot of water and they release into each other and its basically like a snowball effect so to speak.
 

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Bull shoals = hydropower and minimum flow for trout + flood control + water supply

Mississippi lakes = flood control and water supply. There is no “power pool” in the MS lakes - means they dont have to store water for later use. Get it and dump it as long as not too high downstream.
BINGO My take is that HYDRO has taken precedence over flood control for the last several year.MONEY MATTERS
 

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Bull Shoals is the catch all lake so that Table Rock and Taneycomo stay at a level that allows tourism to flourish in Branson. Power pool levels were raised a couple of years ago, but it still doesn't matter. I grew up in Forsyth MO and the campgrounds flooded every year
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So it was built for flood control, yet it’s flooding us out to the south during the summer and they are okay with that?

Sounds like there is plenty of watershed to the north that would allow them to draw down Bull Shoals every winter and there be a 95% chance there will be water upstream they could use to fill it back up IF rainfall was inadequate the following spring.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to plant bottomland hardwoods that have been cleared in the MAV but we are okay with killing hundreds of thousands of acres of remnant, mature hardwoods? There has to be an alternative to managing those water levels to the north. Time is of the essence.
 

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Was talking to a G&F type at one of the ramps on Norfork about the yearly Summer flooding and if anything is going to be done about it. He indicated that there is not much they can do and that it's COE's ball to carry. He did opine that if the flooding is to continue, all ramps and parking areas should be elevated to accommodate high water. If that were to happen, it would take a lot of anxiety and angst off the fishermen and marina owners. Apparently we have a ton of money floating around in the "Infrastructure Bag" and you'd think the COE could gets it's hands on some of that and do something intelligent. Maybe I am hoping too much. I would agree that both Norfork and Bull have a much better bass fisherery because of the flood conditions - with the exception of the stripers in Norfork that have been killed off in the thousands due to low oxygen levels in the Fall. Back in the 80's and early 90's, the average striper in Norfork was 20 pounds. Now it's probably in the 7 pound range. In the late 80's, the biggest I've heard of in Norfork was 53 pounds and that will probably never happen again with these water conditions.

Cheers.....
 

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This topic seems to come up every year. The COE lakes (Beaver, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Greers Ferry) are all flood control lakes for the White River flood plain. The "flood control" has zero to do with any areas immediately surrounding the actual lakes, its all about the river's flood plain and subsequent impact to farm land. Because of this, water releases from the dam are strictly controlled and really have nothing to do with hydro-electric generation. First, there is the minimum flow requirements for trout, but that really only comes into play in late summer if at all. In all other cases, it is the White River level that dictates water releases from dams. The allowable level changes based on time of year, but is currently 28'ft on the Clarendon gauge. I don't know if Clarendon is the official gauge they use, that is just the one I follow. If you happen to look at the level on the link below, you'll notice the river level is hovering righ tat the 28' mark for a long time. As the river starts trending down, more water is released from the lakes. Overall, the river will stay around 28' until the lakes get back to normal pool OR we hit the next window in which the Clarendon gauge must be 25'. I think that is in late June or early July if I remember correctly.

I do 100% agree that the COE needs to completely reevaluate their water management plan as it relates to the White River flood plain. Precipitation trends have obviously changed and this spring/summer high water is no good for the bottoms. They could just as easily hold the river at 28' starting in Sept/Oct. It would be better for the trees, better for duck hunting, and same impact on farmers.

White River Level Clarendon
 

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So it was built for flood control, yet it’s flooding us out to the south during the summer and they are okay with that?

Sounds like there is plenty of watershed to the north that would allow them to draw down Bull Shoals every winter and there be a 95% chance there will be water upstream they could use to fill it back up IF rainfall was inadequate the following spring.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to plant bottomland hardwoods that have been cleared in the MAV but we are okay with killing hundreds of thousands of acres of remnant, mature hardwoods? There has to be an alternative to managing those water levels to the north. Time is of the essence.
Definitely not any more room upstream right now.
 

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Another thing that most folks don't know is that Bull Shoals has more storage capacity than Table Rock or Beaver. Table Rock levels are NOT due to tourism or Branson. The lake simply cannot hold as much water as Bull Shoals.
 

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I live on a lake that is managed primarily as flood control. It has a fixed lake elevation - right at 259.5. As long as river levels down stream are not too high, during periods of high water, they dump water continuously until the lake level gets back to 259.5 - whatever the month of the year. I used to live on a lake built for hydropower and flood control. A lot of the old hydro reservoirs in AR were built back in the mid 20th century. Things were different back then. Not many lake users, facilities were crude at best, no multi gozillion dollar marinas, etc. The water management plan back when these lakes were constructed back in the 40’s and 50’s worked around the “rule curve”. The “rule curve” represented a parabolic graph of water levels based on time of the year. Typically, lakes were expected to be a the low point early winter, after peak generation periods in summer and fall. For example, that might be elevation 535 on lake “X” at mid December. The lake elevation would be at a low point early winter in anticipation of catching winter and spring rains - and reducing downstream releases for flood control. The “rule curve” planned for gradual increases in lake elevation through the winter and spring when most rain occurs in AR. On lake “X”, that might be from elevation 535 in Dec to elevation 548 first of June. Two purposes were served - slowing the release of spring rains downstream, and catching and holding water in preparation for summer hydro releases. As a by product, lake levels were elevated during the summer recreation season. The rule curve parabolic graph would typically be at its highest point first part of summer. Summer rainfall is reduced and regular hydro releases lowered lake elevation for the next six months, until back to a low point elevation of early December. The straight flood control lakes were not designed to have fluctuating water levels. Without excessive rain or drought, they could theoretically remain at the same pool elevation 12 months a year.

The rule curve worked pretty good for for a lot of years. Several of the AR Corps lakes I am familiar with started seeing public and private pressure to modify the water control plans in the 80’s. Marinas were growing in size - once designed to stable rental 16 footers, houseboats were now taking over. Marina facilities do not do well sitting on the lake bottom all winter. Some lakes saw housing developments around the lakeshore. Local towns were becoming a tourist based industry due to lake visitation. Motels and restaurants were supported largely by lake visitors. Campgrounds were upgraded. It didnt matter much what the lake elevation was when a campground amounted to picnic tables and outbouses. Developed camp pads, water, electric, flush bathroom and shower facilities, sewer, and even cable - the campgrounds started catering to more and more “off season campers”, who demanded more consistent water levels throughout the year. On many lakes, the rule curve was greatly modified - or abandoned - in support of the various local demands.


A water control plan used to manage the lake levels in the reservoirs is devised from years of historical hydrography, rainfall and drought information, human occupation, power demands, etc. - both upstream and downstream of the dam. It was always odd to me that the Govt bought flowage easements above the dam, allowing them to flood private land, and restricting development, in those areas - and didnt buy flowage easement downstream in most cases. Over half my property is in a flowage easement - cant build anything in that ground. A lot of development has occurred in historical flood plains downstream of the dams. People were lulled into complacency by years of fairly stable water in the river valleys. I know in the past decade or two, some serious flooding of developed areas has occurred not far downstream. That development causes the corps some pause when a large water release is desired, but to do so would put water on downstream development. I always thought, how great would it have been, if the Govt would have bought all the normally flooding bottom ground, made public ground, and allowed to flood as needed. But, no deal.

And then came the rains. Rain amounts that would have been considered abnormal back in the 1950’s, are now average. And it isnt just rainfall amounts upstream, but downstream, and even areas hundreds of miles away. Rainfall and snow in Minnesota could affect water releases from AR Corps lakes. Downstream water levels often restrict water releases from upstream dams. Many folks will be griping about high water in a local reservoir, completely ignoring that if the Corps released that water, it would flood someone downstream. The graph below shows the difference in average annual AR rainfall of the over the past 120 years. The five year 2015 - 2019 period is by far the wettest period in AR in that 120 years. Far wetter than when most of the AR dams were built and water control plans developed.

It is difficult to accommodate all the changes, challenges, and mother nature - that have occurred over the past 70 years since these dams were built. It isnt as easy as just modifying lake levels at hydropower dam. Generator efficiency varies with lake level. Rainfall in another basin can effect water releases 500 miles away. There are many factors that contribute to the Corps ability to manage their projects - and it is unlikely that a lake project can effect one change and make a big difference - kind of like our turkey flock.
Azure Font Line Plot Parallel
 

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Very useful app for Little Rock District lakes and rivers.
 
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