Heading into a second year of drought with reservoirs already drawn down and snow melting fast, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is planning to release nearly twice as much water as usual in the Snake River this summer.
Barring prolonged wet weather, water managers will release 4,000 cubic feet per second from Jackson Lake Dam through September.
The agency projects to draw down Jackson Lake reservoir to about 18 percent of capacity. At best, the bureau will fill Palisades Reservoir to about 50 percent of capacity before draining it nearly dry to meet irrigation needs in Idaho.
Mike Beus, BuRec operations manager, presented his projections along with weather forecasts at the agency’s annual water meeting last night in Jackson. A crowd of anglers, irrigators, farmers and rafting guides attended.
Beus painted a stark picture of less water available for storage in the basin, temperatures skyrocketing to 90 degrees in Boise last week and snow melting in the high country above Jackson Lake at a rate of 2 inches per day. While this weekend’s cool, wet weather offers some relief, temperatures were 10 degrees above average for the first half of May, he said.
“The normals are changing,” he said.