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Dams are at Record Low Levels

by Associated Press
Idaho Falls Post Register, November 7, 2003

BOISE -- The water supply outlook for dams on the upper Snake River is grim heading into winter, the Idaho Department of Water Resources reported Thursday.

In mid-October, that system of upriver dams held the lowest amount of storage water ever recorded.

On Oct. 11, the reservoirs on the upper Snake held 385,000 acre-feet of storage water, 9 percent of their total capacity of 4.3 million acre-feet. The previous record was 1977, when only 386,000 acre-feet remained.

Nearly half the carry-over is in Idaho's Henry's Lake and Wyoming's Jackson Lake. The rest is spread across the system.

Water Resources officials said long-range weather forecasts are not optimistic for above-average snowfall to refill those reservoirs before next year's irrigation season.

Based on existing conditions that included limited flows out of the reservoirs, water in storage is increasing by just 8,500 acre-feet a day since the official end of the irrigation season last week.

At that rate, the dams would be holding back only about 1.5 million acre-feet on April 1, just 36 percent of capacity.

That figure would virtually guarantee severe irrigation water shortages during the 2004 irrigation season, state officials said in a statement.

Meanwhile, leaders of a coalition of water users in Idaho warned that legal maneuvering by environmentalists threaten efforts to maintain state sovereignty over Idaho water.

Several conservation groups asked a federal judge in Portland, Ore., to include operation of the dams on the upper Snake River in Idaho in the overall legal debate over how to preserve and revitalize Northwest salmon runs.

Also Thursday, salmon advocates praised members of the U.S. House for supporting new studies into breaching four lower Snake River dams to boost fish migrations. Breaching is the term for breaking a dam down to let water flow through.

The number of House members backing the bipartisan Salmon Planning Act hit 100. The measure was introduced by Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Thomas Petri, R-Wisc.

Associated Press
Dams are at Record Low Levels
Post Register, November 7, 2003

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