Even Flex Seal couldn’t have spared Cushing Lake

Posted by art@cushingcitizen.com art@cushingcitizen.com
I stood on the earthen dam with City Manager Terry Brannon Sunday afternoon and together we watched the waters of Cushing Lake flow out through the breach beneath the spillway.
For me, the incident was a bit emotional. I actually have an appreciation for Cushing Lake and have spent a great deal of time in my little boat angling for its elusive catfish.
For Brannon and the city’s leadership team, the incident and the ensuing Facebook commentary got downright punishing.
As soon as the city posted information on the situation at the lake on its Facebook page (something it does as a service to its constituents) Facebook reacted. The response was initially positive with commenters showing concern for their lake and thanking the city leaders for their efforts as well as asking what might happen next.
But it didn’t take long for the trolls to crawl out out from under their bridges and their commentary was pathetically shallow and predictably mean.  Some immediately said that lake was gone and it’ll never come back — baseless statements that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Others offered comments akin to good riddance, that lake was a horrid place to go anyway — baseless commentary because in the grand scheme of things, it was (and will be) a pretty nice lake.
One troll boasted on the Citizen’s Facebook page, that he had known for years that the spillway was leaking and had told the city, but nothing was done…
He said it wouldn’t have happened if the city would have fixed the dam last year when he reported the small leak. He ended his uneducated rant with mean sarcasm, “Thanks City of Cushing for taking care of our lake.”
Give me a break, Mr. Troll.  If you think that repair to the spillway is something that could have been done in a few months, you haven’t got a clue about how any of this works.
What did you expect the city to do, slap a strip of Flex Tape over the hole?
The reality of the situation is, the current administration inherited that leaky spillway, and knew about it.
They also knew about the sloughing on the backside of the earthen dam and were taking the steps needed to initiate repairs.
In Star Wars, Han Solo told a pretentious Luke Skywalker, “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dustin’ crops, farm boy.”
The same applies to the trolls.
Repairing a leaky lake impoundment ain’t like patching a leaky horse trough.
In order to fix a concrete spillway on a lake the size and age of Cushing Lake, the first thing the city would have had to do is drain the lake so engineers could assess the actual damage and determine how to make the repairs. With that said, until Sunday morning, there was no mechanical means by which that lake could have been drained (i.e. valves and underground release) so portable pumps and siphons would have been necessary to get the water over the dam and on its was to the Cimarron River.  The lake would have to be PUMPED DRY.
Lets talk about the logistics of this.
Warning, we’re going to do some math, so you Facebook trolls try and keep up.
A single, 24-inch, diesel-powered water pump costs around $200,000.
This pump has a capacity to move about 33,000 gallons of water an hour, or 792,000 gallons of water a day — one might think that’s a lot of water — its not.
Cushing Lake, at capacity, impounds 3,304 acre-feet of water. An acre foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, so 3,304 X 325,851 = 1,076,611,704.
So there is a billion gallons of water in Cushing Lake at any given time.  Okay, let’s take our 792,000-gallon-per-day pump and pump the water out of the lake.
Dividing 792,000 (the amount of water our pump can move in a day) into one billion (gallons of water in Cushing Lake) gives us the amount of days it would take to pump the lake dry — 1,262 days — also known as 3.4 years.
That’s way too long… the trolls would feel bored by then. We better get three pumps (at a cost of about half a million dollars) and reduce that time to just a little over a year, not taking into consideration rainfall and unforeseen issues like pump breakdowns and Facebook trolls.  Remember, we have to feed these pumps diesel fuel 24-7 for more than a year. On the average one of these pumps consumes three gallons of diesel an hour while operating under load, so over the course of a year, with three pumps going 24-7. The city will need to buy 272,592 gallons of fuel. At today’s price of around $2.90 a gallon, the fuel costs to the city would be a staggering $790,516.
Now, I guarantee that if the city ever started this operation… to fix the problem “you reported” Mr. Troll, you’d be trolling Facebook criticizing everything they did, even though they have engineers on staff (and you do not).
Rest assured, while this spillway failure is a huge bummer for fishermen and duck hunters and other people who enjoy the lake, it is also a blessing.  Now the city can fix the spillway and, while they are at it, make some improvements to the lake.
Shame on you trolls for attacking the city for the condition of the spillway.  The fault lies with Father Time.  The dam is nearly 100 years old and probably had a projected 50-year life span. We can also fault wastewater injection and the ensuing earthquakes that certainly had an impact on the integrity of the spillway.  Let’s also throw a little blame at every flood that washed over the spillway in the last century.
It happened, move on. Be proactive instead of troll negative.  Get involved in the process of creating the new and improved Cushing Lake.
I think that’s what I’m going to do.

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