Posted: Jul 18, 2013 7:33 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Jul 18, 2013 7:33 PM
HELENA - We're entering the driest part of the year and it's bad news for folks who enjoy boating on Canyon Ferry Lake, where the water level is about six feet below last year's level.
Tim Felchle, a civil engineer with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, noted, "That's a low level for Canyon Ferry. In the drier years if you got within three to four feet of being full it was still a water supply that we could manage."
The Bureau of Reclamation reports spring runoff combined with spring precipitation wasn't enough to fill the lake; Felchle explained, "When you don't have the spring precip, irrigation demands increase considerably and then it further depletes the runoff into our reservoirs."
Which is exactly what happened, and now the Bureau is forced to manage water levels more conservatively.
Normally the flows coming off Canyon Ferry Dam are about 4,000 cubic feet of water per second, but now because of the water shortage they are seeing the flows down around 3,000 cfs.
In deciding to slow wate releases, the Bureau has to consider all water users and that's a tough balancing act.
Felchle said, "We are trying to manage releases out of Canyon Ferry that will provide a fisheries flow that won't cause major impacts to the fishery downstream of Canyon Ferry, as well as trying to manage the reservoir for lake recreation."
Not only do anglers and boaters need the water, but irrigators and the power company need it too, and everyone is hoping that the Bureau isn't forced to drop the flows even lower before summertime comes to a close.
The Bureau reports current inflows into Canyon Ferry Reservoir are 37% of average.