Milford Lake officials hope to release water in a few weeks

Bill Whitworth — from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — answers questions about Milford Lake during Wednesday night's meeting at the Geary County Senior Center.

With Milford Lake water levels high, and many docks and signs under water there, locals are urged to use caution for any recreational activities.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Bill Whitworth hosted a public meeting to address questions and concerns over rising water levels at Milford Lake Wednesday night at the Geary County Senior Center.

Whitworth invited Kansas City District representatives to meet with the public and educate residents on how Milford Lake fits into the grand scheme of the district. Whitworth said the intent of the meeting was to do three things for the public, which include: 

• Give a status update on the lake

• Show residents how Milford fits into the big picture of the district

• Answer questions or address concerns the public might have 

Whitworth said the meeting was by no means a forum or debate, but that didn’t mean the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not want to hear visitors’ questions or concerns. 

Brian Smith, from the Kansas City District, said there are 18 different reservoirs in the district, five of which are reported to have reached record levels in regard to water levels. 

“The purpose for reservoirs is to manage flood risk,” Smith said.

Smith’s intent was to better inform the public of how Milford Lake fits into the Missouri River Basin. 

“Milford is a piece of the system,” Smith said. “There is a lot of water in the system. Not just in Milford and not just in (Tuttle Creek Lake), but throughout the whole basin.” 

Smith said different flood control phases are utilized for flood risk management. 

The district will make reservoir discharges based on different targets downstream, and on where the reservoir level falls on different phases in order to minimize downstream flooding, Smith said.

“We can meter that out when certain targets downstream can allow us to do that,” he said. 

Flooding and levee breaches in Waverly, Mo., are preventing other reservoirs from releasing water. High water levels in Waverly are due to the flooding that occurred in Nebraska in March. 

“The Waverly target on the Missouri River has been extremely high,” Smith said. “So high that we have been unable to release water from the Kansas River Basin reservoirs, so we have been holding it for quite a while.”

Smith said Milford Lake is currently in phase two out of three. 

“We are not in phase three just yet, but we are close,” he said. “Target flows at Waverly are less than 130,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Milford can release water in a controlled fashion. The Waverly gauge has not been under 130,000 CFS since March.” 

According to Smith, it is predicted that the Missouri River will pass the second highest flow of water on record to date.

Whitworth discussed how recreation will be affected this year due to the rising water levels. According to Whitworth, there are normally 12 boat docks open, but because of the high water levels, only two are currently functional. The docks that are functional are the West Rolling Hills dock and the Fort Riley Marina. While Whitworth said boating was still authorized at this time, boaters and other attendees of the lake should be careful as the lake looks vastly different due to the fact that a large majority of land that is familiar to frequent users is currently under water. Many of the signs posted at the lake to give recreational visitors directions and assistance are also under water. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working diligently with local officials to ensure the safety of residents. At this time, there is no reason for immediate concern of flooding to homes or businesses, and the organization is in a good position to be able to detect if that will change, Whitworth said.

Whitworth predicts that, within the next three weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be able to begin releasing water to curb flood risks. Whitworth assured the public that the organization is working to get things going as quickly as it can.

“But we don’t know how possible it will be for everything to look normal this year,” Whitworth said.

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