The water level in Lake Roosevelt already is so low boats can’t be launched, but the situation will get worse as officials draw down the reservoir in anticipation of the largest spring runoff in more than a decade.
Grand Coulee Dam is spilling 20,000 cubic feet of water per second to get the reservoir down to an elevation of 1,215 feet by April 30. The last time Lake Roosevelt was that low was in 1980.
Depending on how rapidly the region’s snowpack melts, it may be necessary to draw the reservoir down to its lowest allowed level of 1,208 feet, according to Steve Clark, hydroelectric power manager at Grand Coulee Dam.
Clark said the snowpack estimate - already 123 percent of average - may soon be revised upward by 8 percent to 10 percent.
The lake level was 1,238.7 feet Thursday, still well above last spring’s low of 1,227 feet. The low point in several previous springs was 1,230 to 1,245 feet, Clark said.
This year’s unusually low drawdown means it will take longer to refill the reservoir to its typical maximum of 1,280 to 1,290 feet.
“We expect to be full by the latter part of June or the first part of July,” Clark said.
That’s bad news for marinas, like the one at Seven Bays Resort north of Davenport.
“We won’t have any business,” said Travis Angstrom, the marina’s maintenance supervisor. In a good year, he said, the reservoir would be full by late March or early April. Among bad years, Angstrom added, last year and this year “have been the most extreme.”
Angstrom said the resort’s docks now lack gasoline or electricity because they’ve been pushed out to the main channel of the Columbia River to find clear water. He said boats that are already in the water can operate, but it is almost impossible to launch larger craft now.
Most boat launches along the reservoir are closed to normal use, Angstrom said. Boaters who use them do so at their own risk and generally need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Boaters have to cross a lot of mud to get to the water, which is “way down below the concrete,” Angstrom said.
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