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Lake Of The Ozarks Water Level Could Be Dropping Soon

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Lake Of The Ozarks Winter Drawdown - Shoreline

LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — The Lake of the Ozarks winter drawdown is something that long-time Lake homeowners know about and plan for, while it can come as a surprise (sometimes an unpleasant one) for new homeowners.

Annually in the months of January and February, Ameren — which owns and operates Bagnell Dam — lowers the Lake level by six feet from its summer full pool level (660 feet above sea level). But so far this winter, the water level has dropped by only about half the normal amount The current Lake level is 656.5 feet above sea level.

Bagnell Dam operators rely on a guide curve to set a target for the lake level throughout the year. By this point in February, the guide curve has the water level at 654. However, the guide curve is only a general target, and Ameren says this winter there are other factors at play.

In their daily lake level report, an operator at Bagnell Dam explained, “Osage is staying above the guide curve to the end of February.” The reason: last year’s drought through Kansas and parts of the Midwest resulted in lower inflows into major rivers like the Osage and the Missouri.

During winter, ice jams can occur on those rivers — especially further north — and that can restrict the flow of water downstream. In those instances, reservoirs like Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake are critical resources to help maintain water flow on the Missouri River.

Such was the case in the catastrophic freeze of 2021: the ice jam on the Missouri River was so bad, the Labadie Coal Power Plant was at risk of not having enough water to cool its generators and continue operating. In response, Bagnell Dam operators ran water out of Lake of the Ozarks, which sent water via the Osage River downstream into the Missouri River, allowing the power plant to continue operating. That kept Missourians lights — and furnaces — on during the lengthy deep freeze.

Through the end of the month, Bagnell Dam operators expect to keep the Lake of the Ozarks level around 656 feet.

But they aim to begin dropping the water level in early March — depending on weather conditions — to reach that 654 mark, as the coldest part of the year gives way to the wettest, and spring rains fill the Lake of the Ozarks up in time for Memorial Day weekend boating.

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