Feds Side with State on Reservoir Releasesby Ken Dey
Idaho Statesman, July 20, 2003
OROFINO -- Federal experts are now supporting state and tribal leaders on a plan to limit cold water releases from north-central Idaho´s Dworshak Reservoir now so water is available in September.
The backing of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could be enough to try the plan out. The Nez Perce Tribe and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission are also signed on.
“For us, seeing NOAA Fisheries support this kind of operation that Idaho and the Nez Perce have is significant,” Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Rudd Turner said.
Shifting releases into September would help threatened fall chinook as well as lure more returning steelhead into the Snake and Clearwater rivers.
As part of the federal strategy to recover threatened salmon runs, the government has been releasing cold water from the depths of Dworshak to cool the Snake River and improve flows through downstream reservoirs. The releases began around July 4 and will continue until Dworshak is 80 feet below full — usually in late August. But the state and tribes have been pressing in recent years for saving some water to benefit fish during September as well. They have been stymied by the federal determination that summer is comprised of July and August without recognition that high temperatures persist well into September in Idaho.
Oregon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have objected to extending the release period.
This year´s decision will probably be made in the next several days.
NOAA Fisheries switched sides this year because the migration of juvenile fall chinook was earlier than usual, and the end of the migration includes much higher return rates for adult fish.
Kyle Martin, a hydrologist with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, said reducing flows in August raises the temperature of the Snake and Clearwater rivers slightly and gives the juvenile fall chinook that have not migrated a better chance to grow.
The reservoir is releasing about 14,000 cubic feet per second now. If the extended plan is adopted, that will be cut to 8,000 cfs over a period of weeks and then remain there until mid-September.
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