Water Quality Division
WQ Priority Watershed Projects
Elk City Lake Watershed Implementation Project 2008
In late 2006, the City of Elk City, which owns and operates the lake, approached the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Water Quality Division (OCC) about implementing a watershed project to address the sources of the lake’s impairments, particularly the pathogen problems. Landuse in the watershed is primarily range, pasture, and cropland with little to no riparian buffer along much of the stream courses and direct access by livestock. Because there are not municipal discharges or feedlot operations in the watershed, it is most probable that the potential sources of bacteria contributing to the lake’s impairment are resulting from these landuses.
According to the 2002 USDA AG census, farmland accounts for over 500,000 acres in Beckham County. The average farm size is 527 acres, although many farms are smaller than 180 acres. Cattle were the top livestock commodity in the county for 2002, with an inventory of over 60,000 animals. Wheat dominated crops grown in the county for the same year, followed by many acres of hay production. This area of the state is known to have good quality agricultural land. The majority of the landuse in the watershed is distributed between pasture/range (52.5%) and cultivated cropland (23.1%).
The Elk City Lake watershed is located in the west-central part of the state in Beckham County. The lake is designated as a Primary Body Contact Recreation (PBCR) waterbody in the Oklahoma Water Quality Standards (OWQS) and experiences heavy recreational use, particularly swimming, during warm weekend and holiday periods. In addition, the lake has use designations for Aesthetics, Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife Propagation--Warm Water Aquatic Community (FWP--WWAC), Industrial and Municipal Process and Cooling Water (I&M), and Fish Consumption. The lake is also designated as a nutrient limited watershed (NLW), which denotes watersheds with waterbodies that are adversely impacted by excess nutrients. Impairments on the pending 303(d) list include dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and Enterococcus.
The primary practices envisioned by this project for control of bacteria entering the lake will focus on establishing and protecting riparian areas and providing incentives to livestock producers to move cattle away from streams through such practices as offsite watering, exclusionary fencing and others. A goal of 1,521 acres of riparian buffer will be established and protected, with a large portion of the necessary funding coming from the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Establishment and promotion of riparian buffers and related BMPs will not only work to significantly reduce delivery of bacteria to the lake, but also sediment and nutrients which are causing the turbidity, eutrophication, and low dissolved oxygen problems.
The project will be conducted over a fifteen plus year period allowing adequate time for pre and post implementation monitoring and a two year sign up period for BMP installation; fifteen years is the period of reserve time for CREP enrolled lands, which will require administrative and monitoring costs to be budgeted over this period.