APRIL 22, 2010

Dworshak not expected to reach fill levels this season

   Dworshak Reservoir is not expected to fill this year unless unusual precipitation occurs between now and June. Paul Pence, Natural Resource Manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE) stated that Dworshak Reservoir is at 52% of the normal snow pack for this time of year. It is at the lowest level it has been since 1961. Pence said that a very optimistic prediction would be to get within 8 feet of full by the end of June or the first week of July,

   Steve Hall, of the Walla Walla District office (USACE), said that typically, water is evacuated from the man-made lake to allow for spring runoff. “That won’t be necessary this year,” Hall said. At the present time, it is allowing only minimal flows and the reservoir will be allowed to refill.


   The 121 remote campsites at the reservoir, accessible by boat, are popular campsites. But, lowered water levels make these campsites hard to get to at best.  Lower water levels have a direct effect on the number of reservations made for campsites at the park.


   Since Idaho Parks and Recreation (IDPR) has restored Dworshak State Park (Big Eddy Marina with Freeman Creek and Three Meadows Group) to its park system, reservations are again being accepted at the IDPR website: It should be noted, when searching for boat campgrounds in summer months, some are designated “walk up” only.

Fish habitat

   Cooler water temperatures are necessary for steelhead and salmon to thrive. To cool the lower Snake River, and to help migrating juvenile fall chinook migrate to the ocean, water is normally released from the reservoir after the hot July 4th weekend,

   Hall said it is possible that regional fisheries managers could call for springtime releases to “boost the migration of juvenile spring chinook and steelhead.” “We would like to keep it at a minimum,” he said. 

When there is normal precipitation, the target is to have 1,600 feet elevation for the end of June.


   From a power standpoint, utility companies won’t be able to sell excess power out of the region this year through Bonneville Power Administration. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council  reports that despite low snow pack in the Columbia River Basin, hydropower, in combination with other generating methods, is predicted to supply adequate amounts of electricity.

   “Low flows will reduce hydropower generation below normal, but there is no danger of a serious curtailment to electricity service according to our analysis,” said Bruce Measure, council chairman of Kalispell, MT. “The power available from generation plants, including hydropower dams, wind turbines, and power plants that burn fossil fuels is more than adequate to meet anticipated demand for electricity this year,” he said.