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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Low runoff boon to spring recreation on reservoirs

Forecasts for below-normal spring runoff are prompting an early start to the boating and camping season behind the region’s big dams.

Reservoir drawdowns are less severe this year because hydro-power managers don’t need to make room for huge amounts of snowmelt pouring out of the mountains.

Lake Roosevelt’s spring drawdown behind Grand Coulee Dam has maxed out with water levels about 20 feet higher than last year’s low point needed to accommodate Columbia River flows.

That means fewer boat ramps are out of commission as the reservoir begins filling to summer levels and fewer fish will be drawn out of Lake Roosevelt and downstream through the dam.

Dworshak Reservoir boat-campers are big winners in a low runoff year because they have easier access to about 70 boat-in campsites along the sprawling lake above Orofino.

Below-average snowpack in Idaho’s Clearwater sub-basin has prompted an earlier-than-normal fill, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water-management officials say, noting that all boat ramps are open.

Bass anglers in particular are finding full early spring access and great fishing, they say.

“This is an unusual year for water management,” said Steve Hall, water manager at the Corps’ Walla Walla District. “The water-supply forecast for April through July is 70 percent of normal; last year at this time, the water supply forecast was 128 percent of normal.”

Barring dramatic changes in precipitation, the Corps plans to fill the reservoir several weeks earlier than usual.

“We are well on our way to being within 10 feet of full pool (elev. 1,590 feet) by the end of April,” he said. The tentative plan is to be at full pool (elev. 1,600 feet) around the end of May.

Boat campers would be wise to seize the early opportunity. Because snowpack in the sub-basin is 64 percent of normal, Corps officials say they may have to start lowering the reservoir levels sooner than normal to provide Clearwater and Snake River flows for steelhead and salmon.

Info: Dworshak Visitor Center, (208) 476-1255.

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