The Lake That Wasn’t: KFOR crews take a deeper look into the history of Optima Lake

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TEXAS COUNTY, Okla. - Have you been to the best tourist attraction in the panhandle?

2014 promised to be the top year for Optima Lake.

The lake designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first hatched in the FDR New Deal era.

The U.S. Congress signed off on the lake as part of the Flood Control Act of 1936.

After planning and political wrangling, construction for the project finally began in 1966, 30 years after the initial approval.

Residents in the area were looking  forward to having a new lake.

"People were really excited to have that as a recreation destination," said Jada Breeden from the Guymon Chamber of Commerce.

In 1979, the Army Corps of Engineers said the lake would reach optimum visitation in 2014 with 600,000 people coming per year.

As we round out 2014, the reality is shockingly different.

"We thought it was going to fill up and become a very nice lake out there," said Earl Groves, COO of the Tulsa District Army Corps. "And then all of a sudden it started shrinking and shrinking."

Construction of the 45 million dollar dam and lake was finished in 1978.

"We built circulatory roads to three park areas. We put three picnic tables in and benches and a place for people to recreate. We put in I believe 6 boat ramps."

But what was made to be a boater's destination is now a walk through the grass.

There are many theories of why this lake didn't happen.

One of them being the population growth and water usage.

"It's hard to foresee actual population growth in certain regions and how that water will be used," said Sara Goodeyon from the Tulsa District of the Army Corps.

Officials realized in mid 1980 that the lake wasn't going to happen.

By 2010, all services were cut off.

However, it is still an authorized project that costs 30,000 dollars per year to manage.

"We have to manage it the same as we would Keystone or Arcadia," said Goodeyon.

A decision to deauthorize Optima Lake has not been approved by congress.

For now, half of it is managed by the United State Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife refuge.

The other half is run by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

It remains open to the public.

 

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