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Lake Springfield falls to lowest level of 2012; but biologist says fish kills unlikely

November 30, 2012 at 02:55 PM

The State Journal-Register

Lake Springfield has fallen to its lowest level of the year, thanks to the aftereffects of the drought of 2012.

The lake level at City Water, Light and Power’s water purification plant had dipped to 556.21 feet above sea level as of Tuesday.

“That would be the lowest level this year, which is about 1.9 feet below our average for this time of the year,” CWLP spokeswoman Amber Sabin said Thursday.

“Our customers are still under water restrictions, and we pump from the South Fork of the Sangamon River when we can.”

Full pool is 560 feet at Lake Springfield. The lowest level on record was 547.44 feet in December 1954.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson said anglers don’t need to worry.

“The lake has a long way to go down before the fish population would be in jeopardy,” Stephenson said. “I would estimate at least 10 more feet and possibly more depending upon the time of the year. 

“Cold water holds more oxygen per volume that warm water does and fish, being cold-blooded animals aren’t very active in cool water so they don’t need as much oxygen,” he said. “If this drought persists, and I’ve been to Corp of Engineer meetings recently that suggest it will, another 10 feet or so and hot weather and we could have a fish kill.”

But Stephenson said that scenario is a long way off.

“If the lake drops another 10 feet, there will be much more to worry about than the fish,” he said. 

Drought update

Drought conditions have returned or worsened in some areas of the state, according to updates this week from the U.S. Drought Monitor and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I thought we were on the road to recovery, and it just kind of stalled out,” said climatologist Jim Angel with the Illinois State Water Survey. “Normally in November, fall storms roll through, but we didn’t get much of anything the last few weeks.”

The drought technically ended in much of central Illinois in the last few weeks, thanks primarily to heavy August rains from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. The Drought Monitor still rates the region “abnormally dry.”

But a weekly update released Thursday showed conditions have worsened the last two weeks in the Midwest, including in much of northwest Illinois. All or parts of about a dozen counties in that area of the state are again rated in severe drought.

The report showed 62.7 percent of the lower 48 states are in some form of drought, up from 60.1 percent the previous week.

A USDA update this week showed Illinois’ topsoil — the top 8 inches, according to USDA guidelines — has mostly recovered from the drought, but 61 percent of subsoil remained short to very short of moisture.

Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536. Chris Young and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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