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Anglers’ Hopes Being Flushed Down The Drain

Angler hopes are draining as the biggest flush since 1991 continues at Lake Roosevelt.

A snowpack that’s 120 percent of normal in the Columbia River watershed above Grand Coulee Dam apparently is forcing water managers to make room for a heavy runoff, said Craig Sprankle of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Around May 1, every boat launch on the lake is likely to be high and dry.

Meantime, the drawdown is causing frustration among anglers.

Untold numbers of trout and kokanee that have been reared in hatcheries or net pens are being flushed down the dam’s spillways.

Experienced anglers have learned that exaggerated changes in lake levels put a crimp in the fishing. Bass, walleyes, kokanee and trout react to rapid reservoir fluctuations much like a scuba diver might react to a leak in his air tank: Eating isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Today, the Lake Roosevelt pool level will be about 1,268 feet above sea level. The level has been dropping roughly a foot a day, a rate that should continue until the end of April, when the pool could be as low as 1,220 feet, Sprankle said.

“The targets for the drawdown are subject to change,” he emphasized. “It all depends on weather.”

Keller Ferry, the deepest boat launch on Roosevelt, reaches only to 1,229 feet. Spring Canyon reaches to 1,234, Kettle Falls to 1,237, Seven Bays to 1,262.

Eight of the lake’s 20 public boat ramps already are out of water.

“Generally, when we have above-average water years, Roosevelt is drawn down to provide flood control,” Sprankle said.

The goal is to match the low point of the drawdown with the peak of the runoff.

While researchers aren’t convinced that such drastic drawdowns are necessary, one thing’s sure: The drawdowns raise havoc with trout and kokanee.

In September, the Northwest Power Planning Council approved a project to assess the impacts of reservoir operations on fish. This makes sense, considering that millions of dollars have been spent to build and operate fish hatcheries on the reservoir.

But there’s nothing to slow this year’s flush.

“We know from tagging studies that quick drawdowns increase the number of fish going over the dam,” said Allan Scholz, a fisheries researcher based at Eastern Washington University.

A lower pool also increases the speed with which water flows through the reservoir. This decreases the nutrients that feed forage fish, and reduces the amount off food throughout the food chain - from perch to bald eagles.

Tinker, tinker: Legislators are still playing political games with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee refuses to approve former Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld and former National Park Service supervisor Roger Contor, who were appointed to the nine-member commission by Gov. Mike Lowry.

“No way am I going to allow a commission to be stacked by Lowry,” said Sen. Bob Morton.

Dean Lydig, two-term commissioner from Spokane, said he’s stumped by some of the political posturing over the appointments.

“I’m basically a Republican,” Lydig said. “But in the years I’ve been on the commission, nobody’s ever asked us what political party were were in. It’s never been an issue.”

City ski tracks: Spokane City Parks Department cranked up snowmobiles to groom cross-country ski trails at Indian Canyon and Downriver golf courses Wednesday night. Single track only; no skating lane. Get ‘em while they last.

Gathering place: This week’s sudden storm caught birds by surprise. The usual finches and juncos at our feeder were joined by a varied thrush and other new faces, apparently attracted by the commotion.

All birds don’t eat seeds, of course. Robins and waxwings found their sustenance in the crab apples, mountain ashes and other fruit-bearing trees and bushes planted by thoughtful landscapers.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review