Drought threatens Arkansas marinas

WAR EAGLE, Ark. – Marina operators in some parts of Arkansas are threatened by a drought that has beset the region since March 2005, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported in a story yesterday.

The drought Northwest Arkansas has experienced is expected to continue through June, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa. If the forecast holds, marina owner’s worry that profits will drop.

Mike Cheval’s marina on Beaver Lake sits about 23 feet below where it did two years ago, when the lake’s May level topped out at about 1,129 feet. Now, walking to War Eagle Marina requires slowly navigating a steep, wooden plank with railings, according to the newspaper.

Last summer’s receding lake level did not hurt Cheval financially. He received many of his annual boat slip fees last April, revenue which carried him through Labor Day. But by then the water level had dropped enough that he stopped renting boats for fear of accidents.

In August, he shortened the length of one of his docks by four slips, making room for boats to pass between the end of the dock and the shoreline.

Beaver Lake was completed in 1966 by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Since then, the Corps has recorded the lake’s annual minimum and maximum depths. The lake dropped to its lowest level on Jan. 22, 1977, measuring 1,092.81 feet deep. On Dec. 22, 1984, Beaver Lake rose to its highest at 1,130.38 feet.

Beaver Lake’s level was listed at 1,106.9 feet as of last week.

The lake is the stage this week for the Wal-Mart Open, an FLW Tour bass tournament with more than 400 fishermen from 37 states. But the $ 7.6 million event is not expected to replenish the revenue lost by marinas from the low lake level, Joyce Bauer, a co-owner of Lost Bridge Marina, told the newspaper.

The fishermen don’t rely on the marinas’ services, pulling their boats up at night and staying in Rogers for lodging and food. They fill their gas tanks in town, she said.

The three-month forecast through June calls for more of the same dry weather. The Climate Prediction Center, which issues long-range forecasts used by the National Weather Service, predicts a 33 percent chance of below-average rainfall through June.

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