Record rainfall causes problems for Sikes Lake

Damian De Silva, economics senior, says he willing came to the Sikes Lake Cleanup, Sept. 12, just because he wanted to be there. Photo by Rawlecia Rogers.

Damian De Silva, economics senior, says he willing came to the Sikes Lake Cleanup, Sept. 12, just because he wanted to be there. Photo by Rawlecia Rogers.

From May 4 to June 22, Wichita Falls set a record for the amount of rain in May, ending the drought and filling the lakes, but causing some problems as well.

Sikes Lake, which runs alongside the school’s Wellness Center, received an influx of silting and formed an “island” in the northern part of the lake. The silt, or disintegrated rock and sand, has helped to form this “island” over a three-year period.

Kyle Owen, associate vice president of facilities president, met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to solicit funds to remove the silt that threatens the lake’s ecosystem and could threaten surrounding buildings during future floods.

“The island may make up a third of the area in the northern part of the lake,” Owen said. “It’s pretty small, but if more silt shows up, then we can’t maintain a high lake level.”

The lake suffered in 1999-2001, as well, when there was a flood that caused silting in the lake. During this time, university officials also asked for federal funding for dredging the lake and removing the dirt and sand particles. The federal government ended up subsidizing the $75,000 of the $1.8 million project.

Now, in addition to finding funding for the project, Owen said he is looking for other options to help clean up the silt and fix structural problems with the dam.

“We may not even be qualified. It’s a fairly arduous task, and it takes up a lot of time I don’t have, but it has to be addressed,” Owen said. “Right now we are investigating options; none are sure-fire. I’m trying to find options.”

Owen said university officials are still gathering samples for FEMA to examine, trying to determine if the silt is new or old.

However, if the school is not qualified to receive aid from FEMA, Owen said he plans to wait possibly 10 years, when the school doesn’t have as much financial strain, to then go back to the legislature and request help again. Additionally, if the lake silts in completely, then the lake will be considered a wetland, something that demands a different appeal process.

“It’s nothing we have to fix tomorrow,” Owen said. “But if I had the money, I would have fixed it yesterday.”

Owen has until a deadline of Oct. 30 to alert FEMA about the school’s desired course of action.