bureau to cut dam releases early

The Snake below Deadman’s Bar.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will reduce flows out of Jackson Lake Dam into the Snake River a week early, starting Sept. 24.

Water managers will make cuts incrementally, lowering the release from 2,100 cubic feet per second to 300 cfs by Sept. 29. Usually, the bureau begins cutting back water Oct. 1.

The change was not entirely unexpected, given the drought across the West and the bureau’s overarching goal of storing as much water as possible in the Jackson Lake reservoir, to safeguard against continued drought next season.

Scenic rafting operators likely will end their season a little earlier than planned. In 2011, after the third-highest runoff in the last 100 years, there was enough water in the Snake, even as releases were reduced, for rafting companies to run trips through the first week of October.

The cutback will be gradual, dropping to a winter flow of 300 cfs.

The bureau set the release schedule after consulting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The cutback is gradual so as not to strand fish in side channels and pools. Also, gradual change allows the river to channelize and causes less ecological damage than a sudden drop.

At first, the release will drop by 160 cfs three times a day. By Sept. 29, the cuts will taper to 50 and 40 cfs.

The winter flow of 300 cfs is comparable to what the river volume would be if there was no dam.

Update: The bureau’s operations manager in Burley, Idaho, Mike Beus, said the agency needed to keep more water upstream to have a healthier winter flow in the Snake River. 300 cfs is better than 280, he said. Also, the bureau drew down American Falls and Palisades reservoirs lower than projected because of the hot summer, Beus said. Farmers in Idaho are still irrigating.

(Graph via Wyoming Game and Fish Department)


Posted under Environment, Sports

6 Comments so far

  1. Rachel September 13, 2012 4:03 pm

    nice pic, jim!

  2. ann h. swartz September 14, 2012 1:52 pm

    PLEASE….oh how i wish you could have delayed this drop for a few more days…..our trip of a life time….lodging and activities all paid in full….the long anticipation of … our dream of rafting down the Snake from Moran to Moose on Sept. 26th -Signal Mountain Lodge….and then ww rafting the Snake river Canyon on Sept. 28th-Mad River….I pray that God reigns, and rains and rains over Wyoming and puts out the fires and fills the lakes andrivers and streams and reservoirs….AND saves our rafting trips…… :-(

  3. js September 14, 2012 2:00 pm

    You might consider renting inflatable kayaks or hiring guides/instruction from Rendezvous River Sports, at least for the whitewater leg. All hope is not totally lost for the GTNP float, but you might want to check with Signal Mountain to see if they can accommodate you. The launch and landing spots will get really shallow.

  4. bill drui September 23, 2013 7:26 pm

    How much more can you screw up the fishing season on the Snake River in Jackson Hole?!!

    It’s been higher than I’ve ever seen it in 25 years all summer and now, when the fishing could be at it’s best, the flows are cut off early.

    Who is in control of this deal?!!!

  5. Brad September 24, 2013 3:27 pm

    Bill – you are aware that you are responding to a year-old post aren’t you?
    Those flow numbers above are outdated.

    Outflow from Jackson Lake right now is still at 3100 cfs and will remain there in the effort to keep Palisades at least 4% full. It ain’t about the fishing or the floating or the boats (not) in Colter Bay. It’s the demands of the Idaho farmers that own the storage water and the after-effects once irrigating stops. Especially after a big dump like this year. The Snake should remain high for a while anyway.


  6. Mike V September 24, 2013 9:48 pm

    Ummmmm, bill.

    This article is from LAST year.

    The flows this year are going to be dropped gradually over a few days starting Monday the 30th which is pretty much on par with most years.
    AND the flows have been higher than this year a few times in the last 25 years (although not many).

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