U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & Randall County Fire address release of water from Buffalo Lake

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 10:12 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - For the last few days, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been slightly opening Buffalo Lake Dam. It’s been closed off to the public due to the recent weather.

According to Troy Ducheneaux with Randall County Fire, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is constantly monitoring the water levels of the lake and releasing water downstream at a scheduled pace

“They don’t want to just open up the floodgates and cause a dilution of water to come rushing downstream that could create more problems in what it’s worth. So they’re monitoring that they’re releasing the water, and with that, we’re watching for those assets downstream to see if it’s going to create any problems.”

Ducheneaux has been out to the lake periodically throughout the week and says everything is looking good so far.

However, this is still the most water that they have seen or received in several decades and the lake is at maximum level.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been opening the dam at a controlled rate to keep the lake from overflowing over the dam.

In two days, Buffalo Lake had 120 acre-foot of water come in; equivalent to roughly 120 football fields.

“We are releasing somewhere around 100 acre-foot out in the dam right now. We can hold a lot of water, but it’s better to let it out controlled and slow than wait till the dam gets full and say hey we got to open it up all the way,” says Jude Smith, Refuge Manager for Buffalo Lake, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Residents of Randall County have been advised to steer clear of this water.

In the past, water from Buffalo Lake has tested positive for bacteria like fecal coliform and E-coli.

“The watershed starts way west of where Buffalo Lake is, so there is runoff from feed yards and in farms where we’ve got chemicals that would be sprayed or used,” says Ducheneaux.

The water was tested by TCEQ Wednesday, but the results have yet to be released.

The county’s fire department will assist buffalo lake with water rescues, traffic diversion, and notifying the public downstream if and when needed.

“All we have as an agency now is control over what we do at the reservoir and we’re doing our best, to do right by the folks downstream right now, it’s a unique situation, it really is,” says Smith.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife also says that wildlife will not be negatively impacted.

As of today, they don’t want to release any more water and exacerbate the issues Randall County is currently having downstream.