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2014 is big year for Lake Wister as PVIA launches three major initiatives

This summer the Poteau Valley Improvement Authority (PVIA) will test a new way to improve the clarity and health of the water in Lake Wister, begin the construction of a sophisticated computer model of how the lake works, and test water quality on 20 small streams around the county that eventually deliver their water to the lake.

Lake Wister, best known for its good crappie and catfishing, summer camping, and water skiing, is also the source of drinking water for most of LeFlore County, as well as parts of Latimer and Haskell counties. PVIA has been treating water from Lake Wister and providing it to towns and rural water districts since 1969. The intervening years have unfortunately seen water quality in the lake decline significantly.

Turning lake water into clean, safe drinking water has become more difficult and expensive.

Several years ago PVIA began a new initiative to both test innovative ways to improve water quality and to better understand the problems the lake faces. In partnership with the Choctaw Nation, the City of Poteau, AES Shady Point, and the US Geological Survey, PVIA has collected four years of new information on both the water flowing into the lake and on the lake itself.

Now they are ready to begin putting that new data to use. In August, PVIA plans to add alum, a chemical they use every day to treat water in the plant, directly to the lake in Quarry Island Cove. Through this innovative project, which has never been done on this scale in Oklahoma, PVIA hopes to reduce the level of harmful blue-green algae in the water of the cove. Some important algae byproducts are difficult to remove in the plant itself, so if this project is successful, it could lead the way to keeping water treatment costs down, as well as maintaining high safe drinking water standards.

This summer will also see scientists from the University of Arkansas begin building a new computer model of Lake Wister that will increase our understanding of how the lake works, help set goals for lake improvement, and test options for lake and watershed management. Dr. Thad Scott from the University’s Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Department will lead the modeling effort.

At the same time, his colleague Dr. Brian Haggard from the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at the University will lead a team of researchers who will visit 20 small streams that feed into the lake and take water samples for analysis. This sampling program will help identify “hot spots” in the watershed where activities could be focused to improve water quality with the best benefit for the least cost. This sampling program is funded by a partnership of PVIA with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

You can learn more about all these projects next Tuesday night at Lake Wister. On June 17 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at the main picnic pavilion on Quarry Island, PVIA will host an information meeting where you can talk with PVIA staff, scientists, and representatives from all these groups.

You can read more about the proposed alum project here.