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Perry Lake water level designed for fish hatch

Story and photo by Clarke Davis

The next few weeks are critcal when it comes to fish spawning and those who control the water level at Perry Lake are taking that into account.

Perry Lake Operations Manager Ken Wade

Perry Lake Operations Manager Ken Wade

The Corps of Engineers works closely with the state Wildlife and Parks Department in its efforts to improve fishing in Kansas reserviors.

Perry Lake Operations Manager Ken Wade said warming temperatures having come early, the spawning season will run from mid March into May. During that time attempts will be made to hold the lake level fairly constant, but not lower it.

Wade explained that the fish lay their eggs along the water’s edge and if the water level was to be lowered, it would leave the eggs high and dry and that would be devastating to the year’s hatch.

Orders to raise and lower the dam gates that control the lake level come from the Corps’ Water Control Office in Kansas City. It is here that information gathered on area rainfall and gauges in various streams tells the Corps how much water to expect that will eventually find its way into the Delaware River and Perry Lake.

Releases are then based on the amount of water coming into the lake while also balancing this information against what is happening at other lakes, especially Tuttle and Milford, that will affect stream flow on the Kansas and Missouri rivers.

Wade and his nine staff members are preparing for company. They expect 800,000 visitors to Perry Lake between now and Labor Day. Slough Creek Park will open April 15 and the remainder of parks will be open May 1.

“Public health and safety are always our primary concerns,” Wade said.

Wade oversees 40,000 acres of which 11,000 acres are water and 10,000 acres are leased to the state Wildlife and Parks.

The Corps contracts grass mowing on 350 acres that includes the public parks, the dam, and administration area. It also contracts the daily cleaning of toilet facilities and trash removal.

Last year, federal “stimulus” money made it possible to replace a number of 40-year-old wooden latrines in the public parks with new concrete facilities. Many facilities were improved for access by the handicapped and a number of asphalt roads were overlayed.

“This year it’s mostly painting and some roof repair,” Wade said. “Maintenance personnel are getting everything in good shape. I don’t like a dripping faucet.”

Wade is hoping for a more normal year. Last year, because of flooding on the Missouri, the lake level was 14 feet higher than it should have been most of the summer and when temperatures went above 100 degrees F a green algae problem threatened public health.

The manager has one staff member in Afghanistan and one on medical leave. His team leaders consist of Koi Henderson, parks, Kyle Ruona, encroachment, Kyle Broocherd, agricultural leases, and Bunnie Watkins, safety and environmental coordinator.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, Wade said. His staff is constantly taking training and searching the lake area for potential problems that can be eliminated before they arise.

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