Banks Lake nears normal water level

SUNDAY, FEB. 12, 2012, 6:35 A.M.

Things are looking up for anglers at Banks Lake, where the water level has gradually been pumped up close to normal range this winter after a dramatic maintenance drawdown that reached 30 feet below normal in October.

The lake elevation was up to 1,561 feet this week, about 7 feet below the normal winter operating range.

The summer-fall drawdown was a deterrent to boat launching and fishing at the popular 27-mile-long reservoir between Electric City and Coulee City, Wash.

But agencies and towns involved with the lakeshore took advantage of the drawdown to improve facilities such as boat ramps, said Stephanie Utter, project coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Banks Lake is an equalizing reservoir for the Columbia Basin Project. The lake is filled by pumping water up from the Columbia River near Grand Coulee Dam.

“A couple of boat ramps were extended, including the Washington Fish and Wildlife launch at Million Dollar Mile,” she said.

“The town of Coulee City blasted out an area to increase mooring. A lot of bank stabilization and some dredging was done at Steamboat Rock State Park, and groups got together for shoreline cleanup. The shore actually was in great shape. People take good care of Banks Lake, but they did recover one sunken boat.”

Freezing weather that occurred during the drawdown should help knock back shoreline infestations of Eurasian water milfoil, she said.

The bureau plans to bring the lake level back up to around 1,565 feet by April, she said.

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