Dam releases ramping down
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June 26, 2012
Water managers began ramping down Jackson Lake Dam releases Monday, heading toward projected summer flows of 2,000 cubic feet per second.
Bureau of Reclamation officials cut flows from 4,000 cfs to 3,800 cfs yesterday and planned to make similar reductions in coming days. Flows into Jackson Lake peaked June 5 at 6,025 cfs but had declined to 3,466 cfs yesterday, bureau water manager Mike Beus said.
By early next month, dam releases should be set at roughly 2,000 cfs, where Beus plans to keep them until early October. The bureau, in keeping with regular practices, plans to leave 647,000 acre-feet of water in the 847,000-acre-foot reservoir heading into winter.
“By now, it’s pretty certain that we don’t have to move a bunch of water at the end of the season,” Beus said. “So our present thinking — and this could be changed between now and the time we get there — is to stay at 2,000 cfs, even if that draws the lake a little lower than we want it.”
Stable 2,000 cfs releases should serve river users well, said David Tibbitts, owner of Jackson Hole Whitewater. Tibbitts hoped Beus would be able to hit his target.
“It is going to be great if he can keep it at 2,000 the whole time,” Tibbitts said Monday.
While much of the West is enduring drought, Jackson Hole, which accumulated a decent snowpack during the winter, has and will have water for Snake River boaters, Tibbitts said. Having a dam to hold back runoff ensures the river doesn’t dry up significantly come late summer.
“We’re fortunate to have the dam,” Tibbitts said.
Recent warm temperatures have depleted high-mountain snowpack, Beus reported.
A remote gauge at 9,240 feet on Two Ocean Plateau reported the snow melted off on June 23, Beus said. The melt was completed at the 9,580-foot Togwotee gauge June 19.
Beus also increased flows from Palisades Dam, south of Jackson, to 12,000 cfs Monday. He planned to bump flows to 13,500 cfs early in the week.