Serving the Goreville & Lake of Egypt areas since 1977


Snow, rain a welcomed sight for Lake Egypt Water District

Posted December 26, 2012 by Joe Rehana in News
A small grove of bald cypress, which roots are normally submerged with the height of their knees corresponding to the high-water mark, sit on dry land along the receding shoreline of Lake of Egypt near the power plant Monday morning.

A small grove of bald cypress, which roots are normally submerged with the height of their knees corresponding to the high-water mark, sit on dry land along the receding shoreline of Lake of Egypt near the power plant Monday morning.

As Johnson County fell under a winter storm watch Sunday evening with the National Weather Service out of Paducah, Ky. predicting rain and heavy snow Christmas night, officials at the Lake Egypt Water District welcomed the forecast.

“If we don’t have exceptional snowfall this winter and go into Spring without increasing water levels at the lake, we could be in serious trouble come summer,” said Perry Musgrave, Lake Egypt Water District general manager.

The Water District reported the lake at 27 inches below the spillway Friday saying levels have fluctuated around the 30-inch mark for the past few months.

“We were up three inches after last week’s rain and then down an inch as the region dried out,” Musgrave said, adding that the precipitation mostly fell north of the lake’s watershed.

The Water District, which serves the water districts of Goreville, Lick Creek, Devils Kitchen, Creal Springs, Burnside and 4,500 residential customers, issued a press release this past summer requesting water conservation as drought conditions persisted. Musgrave said if the lake level were to ever fall below 60 inches at the spillway, the Water District would not be allowed to pull until a substantial recovery occurred.

Johnson County joined much of the Midwest in one of its worst droughts on record this past summer and a year-end survey of Associated Press-Illinois members selected the drought as the number two-top story in Illinois for 2012, predicting it would top the list once again in 2013.

“The worst drought in decades affected thousands as it settled over Illinois and much of the center of the country,” the AP noted in its Top Ten survey. “Key crops like corn, soybeans and wheat withered while lakes and rivers dried up. The Mississippi River remained desperately low in December, spurring plans by the federal government to blast away rocks that suddenly blocked the flow of commerce up and down the waterway.”

In November Musgrave spoke with the Gazette saying drought-rate fees collected on top of regular rates are going into a special fund to locate and secure an alternate water source. The hunt for that source may renew a battle once fought by Marion in its attempt to build a water supply reservoir.

“The city of Marion once looked at creating a reservoir near Creal Springs by putting a dam on Sugar Creek and creating a lake that could also feed the Lake of Egypt,” said Musgrave. “It’s possible another summer like this last one could spark that debate back up again.”

In 1988 Marion sought a larger and more reliable water source than its Marion City Lake and began looking to Sugar Creek as a possible alternative, proposing a lake that it estimated could supply the city with approximately 9.5 million gallons of water per day, according to a filing in the Appellate Court of Illinois’ Fifth District. The 1998 filing reported Marion’s water requirement of 1.7 million gallons per day far exceeded Marion City Lake’s capacity of 1.1 million gallons per day.

After more than a decade of court battles between Marion and various environmental groups, the proposal was ultimately struck down in 2007 when the Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers denied Marion the permit required to build the reservoir.

“The proposal to dam Sugar Creek sparked immediate controversy within the environmental community,” reported U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in June of 2007. “The project would result in the loss of 6.2 miles of Sugar Creek, one of the last remaining free flowing streams in Southern Illinois with good water quality.”

The Corps of Engineers twice issued Section 404 permits and were sued each time by non-governmental organizations over the protection of the state endangered Indiana crayfish and “possibly the last remaining population of the state threatened least brook lamprey in Illinois,” according to Fish & Wildlife Service. “The Courts remanded the permits, citing the Corps’ inadequate compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Fish & Wildlife Service said that throughout the years in which the court battles ensued, Marion cleared much of the forested habitat surrounding Sugar Creek in the lake-proposed region, questioning whether or not the crayfish and lamprey continued to exist.

In its article’s opening paragraph, FWS said the “long saga” was over followed with a curious afterthought; “maybe.”