Dworshak Dam Discharges are Up
by Zach Whitney
OROFINO - The recent rain storms are causing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release more water than usual from Dworshak Dam.
Corps Senior Water Manager Steve Hall said Wednesday they monitor the water level of the reservoir and the Clearwater River closely. He said increased water discharge was necessary to maintain the reservoir's volume below flood level.
"The snow covered area criteria is designed to conserve space in the reservoir to refill the reservoir to protect against the kinds of storms that we've just recently experienced," said Hall. "Really heavy rain storms that come really late in the season that could cause you to go into a flood stage with inflows higher than we want to discharge for downstream flooding."
Hall says they have to allow for the increased runoff as snow pack in the basin melts during the summer months. The reservoir is 6 feet from being full, so the discharge was increased to 7,500 hundred cubic feet per second. Typical discharge this time of year is 6,000 thousand cubic feet.
"General outlook has been for warmer and dryer weather conditions and so these rains have been surprising," said Hall. "We're thankful for them. We were managing in such a way that we were doing the best job to maximize refill without violating our flood control. And that's what we always do. So, they haven't caught us by surprise, in that we don't know how to respond to them. But it has changed our operations, definitely."
Monitoring water levels is a pretty complicated science. Hall says they will charter a helicopter to fly over the basin and check the snow pack and if all looks good, they will decrease discharge from the dam later this week.
Hall wants to remind boaters that while the weather is warming up, the spring water is still cold, so use caution when getting out on the water. And a higher than normal river means extra safety is needed in the faster currents. He said the increased water flow should not affect spring salmon migration.
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