Water starts flowing into Smoky
By MIKE CORN
CEDAR BLUFF RESERVOIR -- As anxious observers stood by the guardrail Monday, cameras in hand, an alarm sounded from a small building at the base of the Cedar Bluff dam.
Minutes later, water started churning into the irrigation canal feeding from the structure, its intensity building until the water formed a foamy froth.
Water aimed at replenishing the city of Hays wellfield on the Smoky Hill River near Schoenchen was released from Cedar Bluff beginning at 10 a.m. Monday.
The water release brought anxious observers, some who stopped on the reservoir's dam to look down on the rushing waters, others who stood next to the guardrails next to the discharge chute.
Cedar Bluff supporter Bill Scott said he'd sunk a few more sticks into the water to watch and see what effect the release has on the lake.
He did that in 2006, when the cities of Hays and Russell both called for the release of water from Cedar Bluff.
This time, Hays is alone in its request for water.
But Russell could come along during or after the release and ask for the release of water from a pool it owns in Cedar Bluff.
During the course of the next week, water will be pouring out into the former irrigation channel and into the Smoky Hill River.
Ultimately, 1,247 acre-feet of water will be released into the Smoky destined for the Hays wellfield.
That's all the water remaining in the Kansas Water Office's artificial recharge pool, the result of a lake that's now down by almost 20 feet.
Russell owns 2,000 acre-feet of water in the lake and could call for its release at any time.
Fisheries biologist Dave Spalsbury is hoping whatever release is made happens relatively quickly so it can be completed before walleye start spawning along the face of the dam. That's rapidly approaching, likely during the last two weeks of March and early April.
While there's a threat the fish could be flushed downstream as the water is released, he's more concerned about leaving the walleye eggs high and dry on the face of the dam as the water level drops.
Spalsbury also has been surprised by how much water was put into the Smoky river channel as a result of the more than a foot of snow that fell almost two weeks ago.
The river under a low-water bridge approximately 3 miles downstream had been dry prior to the snow, but water now is flowing under the bridge.