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Pump replacement enables refilling of lake

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO, Sept. 3, 2008 -- The lake at Big Oak Tree State Park near East Prairie is once again filling with water, now that the lake's pump has been replaced, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced today. The pump, which is needed to pump groundwater into the lake, stopped working last year and could not be repaired. This caused the water level to drop below the level the department normally maintains in the lake. Now that the new pump has been installed, the lake should soon return to its normal summer level and be available once again for fishing and small boats.

"We recognize that this lake is a traditional fishing lake for local residents, and the low water levels this year were the result of a faulty pump," said Dan Paige, deputy director for the department's Division of State Parks. Money for the pump, which cost approximately $4,000, was appropriated in the fiscal year budget, which was approved in July. The pump was ordered as soon as the money became available and installed on Aug. 19.

The primary mission of Big Oak Tree State Park is to preserve the natural landscape and plants and animals of the bottomland forests and associated cypress swamp. Because of its significance, the park is a designated state natural area and a National Natural Landmark.

The management of the lake is part of the overall management of the park to retain its natural character, including the signature cypress trees around the lake. According to the management plan for the lake, the groundwater is pumped into the lake annually beginning May 15. This gives a water-free period in early spring when the cypress tree roots have a chance to breathe and grow, encouraging the overall health of the trees. After May 15, the lake is filled to a level that maintains it for fishing and small boats for the summer.

Big Oak Lake was built in 1959 in response to the local community's desire for a fishing resource. The lake was built to replace the historical Grassy Pond, a large shallow lake that was drained during the 1930s to 1950s by agricultural drainage ditches around the park. Because the lake is manmade and above ground level, groundwater must be pumped into the lake to maintain water levels. The lake is being maintained as a local fishing resource for park visitors.

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