Utah

Flaming Gorge to release 500,000 acre-feet of water for Lake Powell

SALT LAKE CITY — A new plan approved this week will send 500,000 acre-feet of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Lake Powell beginning in May and ending in April 2023.

Flaming Gorge, which is currently at roughly 80% capacity, is expected to drop 15 feet due to the releases.

There may be extra releases from Blue Mesa and Navajo Reservoir in the fall and winter if needed.

“Combined, these cooperative actions will delay or prevent Lake Powell from dropping below key elevations, including 3,490 feet,” an Upper Colorado River Comission statement says. 3,490 feet is considered the minimum power pool for Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell, which produces hydropower for roughly 5 million customers in the West.

Once it drops below that level, the dam loses the ability to deliver electricity. Lake Powell fell below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) for the first time ever in March.

The Interior Department earlier this month announced that they will be keeping an additional 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell, rather than releasing it into the Grand Canyon.

“The water level at Lake Powell has dropped much more rapidly than our models anticipated and has made it necessary for us to take expedited measures to address the situation,” said Gene Shawcroft, Chair of the Colorado River Authority of Utah and Utah’s River Commissioner.

“Fortunately, our sister states in the Upper Colorado River basin and the Bureau of Reclamation have recognized the severity of the situation and we were able to form a plan for the next 12-month period that is in everyone’s best interest.”

The coordinated release between Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico is part of the Drought Response Operation Agreement (DROA), an element of the Drought Contingency Plan passed by Congress in 2019 and signed into law by President Donald Trump, which outlines specific steps to avoid dangerously low water levels at Lake Powell.

“It’s critical that we take action to ensure Lake Powell maintains a water level that prevents damage to Glen Canyon Dam infrastructure and ensures the communities of Page, Arizona, and the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation continue to access water,” said Shawcroft.

“We recognize the concern this may cause people who love to spend time at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, and that it won’t fully solve the recreation concerns for those who use Lake Powell… Ideally, we’d have enough water to fill all our reservoirs but that’s not the hand Mother Nature has dealt us.”

 

 

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