Boaters and other anglers can expect relatively high water levels at Brownlee Reservoir through late spring because, get this, officials are expecting lower-than-normal flood control space requirements.
Lower runoff and higher reservoir levels?
The amount of space required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control is less than has been required over the past couple of years due to lower-than-average snow in key Eastern Idaho drainages, according to Idaho Power Company. This has allowed Idaho Power to maintain Brownlee Reservoir at a higher-than-normal elevation during this period while remaining within flood control targets set by the Corps.
Idaho’s second-largest reservoir is a favorite spot for campers, boaters and anglers in search of bass and crappie. A large regional bass-fishing tournament, hosted by the Idaho Bassmasters, is being held on Brownlee March 16.
The reservoir elevation on Thursday was 2,054 feet, just 23 feet below full pool. Idaho Power expects Brownlee to remain near current levels through the remainder of the flood-control season. At the current elevation, all boat ramps except those at Holcomb Park and the Spring Recreation site are accessible. Conditions may change, depending on river and runoff conditions, the company said.
By law, the 58-mile-long reservoir behind Brownlee Dam is operated to help manage flood risk in the lower Columbia River, and if needed, to regulate flows in the lower Snake River.
In years, such as the past two, when spring and early summer runoff is expected to be high, the Corps has required the reservoir to be drawn down to accommodate the high inflows. But data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for the first week of March shows snow water equivalents in the Snake Basin above Palisades Reservoir at 88 percent of normal, and the key Payette and Boise drainages at just 79 and 72 percent or normal, respectively.
Summer photo of Woodhead Park on Brownlee Reservoir by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman