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Residents, business owners dealing with abnormally high Smithville Lake levels

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SMITHVILLE, Mo. -- Times have been tense in one Clay County area. People around Smithvlle Lake have been watching the water rise, as some public facilities around the park have vanished below flood conditions.

The dam at Smithville Lake is being called "a lifesaver." It's been in place since 1982, and it's been put through a workout in recent days, given the heavy amount of rain its received. On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a small amount of water that's been built up, and without it, people nearby might be underwater.

Smithville Lake managers have seen their dam protect the city of Smithville from buildup related to 14 inches of rain since May 14th.

Campers like Daniel Miller and Tammy Jenkins say they aren't scared of the threat of flooding, even though parts of this lake and camping area are flooding. USACE says the lake has never held a higher capacity of water. Jenkins and Miller are making their camp site about 500 yards from the dam.

"If you see water running over the road, or a lake that's real flooded, you need to stay away from that," Miller said. "A lot of people try to drive through it, and it doesn't work out."

Less than a mile away, portions of Paradise Point Golf Course are unplayable. Eddie Hall, the course's general manager, says his facility is still open, despite losing a few holes underwater. He's trying to make up the 80 percent of business it's lost during a spring that's been overrun by heavy rain.

"It's heartbreaking," Hall said. "We're a weather-based business. We're used to rain and snow. When the lake backs up, it's not something you're used to. It's not a normal condition."

Laura Vacca, USACE emergency manager based at Smithville Lake, says the dam is performing perfectly. Vacca says it could be a lot worse -- if the Corps hadn't contained and released the water, it might have flooded the entire city of Smithville.

"Nature would have just flooded the whole area, but with the dam systems the Corps has here, this is exactly the way the system is supposed to work," Vacca said.

Vacca adds the Corps plans to release more water tomorrow, provided local flood stages can accommodate the extra water.

At Paradise Point Marina, water has risen to an all-time high. Parts of the gangway leading from the parking lot to the marina dock are nearly underwater, and high water is concealing concrete and wooden structures that aren't typically covered. Nicole Brown, a spokesperson for Clay County Parks and Recreation, says electricity has been temporarily disconnected to boat slips to safeguard against high water short circuiting the system.

Vacca recommends park patrons interested in camping, golfing or using the marina to call ahead before traveling to the lake. She also recommends checking the Clay County Parks and Rec website for Smithville Lake, which should have up-to-date closings for attractions at the lake.