OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- The Missouri State Highway Patrol has determined for safety reasons, boaters are restricted from creating wakes at the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend due to the high water levels there. This is a temporary restriction due to water levels that have not been this high since the mid-1980's.
The restriction will be in place until the lake level recedes below 661 feet. It is currently at 662.5 feet, with the normal stage being 658 feet. In a news release Thursday afternoon, The Missouri State Highway Patrol said the decision was made in an effort to reduce or prevent damage to docks, hoists, ramps, sea walls and other personal property.
According to Governor Jay Nixon's office, it is anticipated that by Saturday, releases from Bagnell Dam will take the lake level below 661 feet so that the order can be lifted.
Engineers with Ameren, the company that runs the Bagnell dam say they had to open the flood gates to balance the flood water between the lake and Osage River.
"This is about the seventh highest that the lake has been in our 84 years," said Warren Witt of Ameren.
Lake visitors and residents say they are being warned to turn off electricity to docks or anything near the water because of the risk. The water is rushing out at 78-thousand cubic feet per second. According to KSPR, that’s about twice the flow from just a day ago.
All boaters should reduce their speeds to no-wake levels. The Missouri State Highway Patrol does not say if violators will be ticketed. Emergency responders will be the only exemption to this restriction.
“Responsible boaters are well aware of the damage that large wakes can wreak, and do what they can to minimize that damage,” Gov. Nixon said in a statement. “With the current Lake conditions, it is imperative that everyone use idle speeds. We want people to have fun, but to be very aware of wake impact while the Lake is so high.”
Property owners like Ted Beer say that they have never seen the water levels at the lake this high.
"The water is up above the sea walls and into the electrical systems that support the docks," said Beer, who has owned a home at the Lake of the Ozarks for 15 years. "That's a dangerous situation because it rarely happens."
"If the dock is electrified and you are swimming, and by the way, you will feel a tingling sensation when you get close to the dock, if you touch the steel when it's electrified, you can be electrocuted," said Beer, who says that many old docks are not up to code. "They don't have GFI protection which is a special ground interruption system that keeps someone from being shocked."
Witt says regulations for dock electrical are fairly new, put into effect in the last couple of years. Docks are inspected when a permit is issued, which leaves a hole for some docks to remain un-inspected.
"If there is a dock that hasn't changed hands or hasn't been modified in the last several years to where they had to get that permit then they may of may not have been inspected," said Witt.
Witt suggests turning off the power to all docks at the lake until the water levels drop.
For more information about Lake of the Ozarks rules and regulations, click here.
In checking other popular lakes, FOX 4 learned Lake Pomme deTerrre is 15 feet higher than normal levels. There are campsites underwater that may cause some canceled plans over the holiday weekend.
Stockton Lake is 5.5 feet higher than normal. It also has a few campsites underwater, but most are open.