CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME

MAY 20, 2010

Dworshak scheduled releases increase to assist outmigrating salmon

Commissioners oppose timing of drawdown, citing concerns over Memorial Day weekend recreation

   In response to a request from regional fish managers, the Corps will increase water releases at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir starting May 19 to help ESA-listed outmigrating juvenile salmon in the lower Clearwater and lower Snake Rivers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials announced Monday.

   Water flows from Dworshak Dam will increase to 10,000 cubic feet per second starting just after midnight on Wednesday morning, May 19, and will remain at 10,000 cubic feet per second until midnight on Friday evening, May 21. The discharge will be reduced from full powerhouse (10,000 cfs) if the inflows to Lower Granite exceed 100,000 cfs (day average). Current modeling shows the releases from Dworshak boosting inflows to Lower Granite into the mid to upper-90,000 cfs range.

   The Clearwater County Commissioners voiced opposition to the drawdown of the reservoir level at this time. The drop in level will impact recreation usage on the Memorial Day holiday weekend. This is historically the start of boating and camping season on the reservoir.

    Evaluation of current juvenile salmon outmigration prompted the Fish Passage Advisory Committee to request an increase in water flows from Dworshak.

   The FPAC is a regional group composed of biologists and fish managers from NOAA-Fisheries; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Idaho, Washington and Oregon statesí fish and wildlife agencies, Native American tribes and the Northwest  Power and Conservation Councilís Fish Passage Center which evaluates in-river conditions for ESA-listed fish and makes recommendations to regional water managers to adjust operations as necessary.

   Recent juvenile salmon and steelhead outmigration counts at Lower Granite Dam have been much lower than anticipated. Through May 15 this season, only 1,965,823 juvenile salmon and steelhead had passed through the juvenile fish facility at the dam Ė during similar water forecast (snowpack and rainfall) conditions in 2005, more than 10,515,796 salmon and steelhead had passed through the JFF by May 15. The unusually low numbers of juvenile ESA-listed salmon passing Lower Granite Damís JFF raised fish managersí concerns and prompted their request for additional flows from Dworshak.

   Outdoor recreation opportunities shouldnít be affected by the increase in flows through the weekend, said Corps recreation officials.

   Recent weather had improved the possibility of refilling the reservoir. The maximum impact of these releases will be about three feet less of refill if the actual runoff volume is less than forecasted. With these releases to assist fish outmigration, the reservoir will likely fill to a level within 10 feet of full, according to Corps water managers.

   While the lower water levels can make it more difficult to access the shoreline mini-camps, the popular destination and safe-harbor docks provide an excellent place for family and friends to meet, picnic, swim and have fun, according to recreation officials at Dworshak.

   Floating destination docks are located near the dam in Merrys Bay, Indian Creek, Drift Creek, Cranberry Creek and two at Elk

Creek Floating safe-harbor docks are located in Freds Bay, Dicks Creek, Cranberry Creek, Reeds Creek, Weitas Creek and Evans Creek. Reservoir maps are available at all boat ramp kiosks and the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center. All campgrounds and boat ramps are open for use.

    Corps officials advise boaters and other people using waterways both in Dworshak Reservoir and downstream of the dam on the Clearwater River to be alert to changes in water elevation.

    The reserving of mini-camp sites along the Dworshak Reservoir shoreline is prohibited. Early placement of camping equipment at mini-camp sites in an attempt to save a spot can result in the removal of the camping equipment or a citation if personal gear is left unattended for an extended period.

   The Dworshak Dam Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. The Visitor Center offers a variety of interpretive displays and movies about Dworshak and the history of the area.

   For more information, visitors are welcome to call the Corps of Engineers at (800) 321-3198; the Visitorís Center at (208) 476-1255. Reservations for Dent Acres can be made at (877) 444-6777 or at www.recreation.gov. Information about Dworshak and other Corps recreation opportunities is available on Walla Walla Districtís Web site at www.nww.usace.army.mil.

   Corps staff manages the reservoir for multiple purposes, including fish out-migration enhancement (spring flow and summer flow), recreation, power and flood risk management, for example. The Corps carefully considers the value and impacts from any requested change in operations.

   For more information about regional water-management activities, go online to the Corpsí Columbia Basin Water Management Division Web site at www.nwd-wc.usace.army.mil.