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BOR outlines American Falls Dam operations for season

Reservoirs and dams in the region are experiencing an earlier-than-normal drop in their water levels. As of Monday, the American Falls Dam is sitting at 78 percent.

To address the concerns about the declining levels, the Bureau of Reclamation presented its plan for operating the dam to assure people the water will be managed so it won’t run out.

The early decline is the result of the region’s warmer winter, which resulted in less water from the snowpack. The warmer temperatures also led to an early need for irrigation.

“Our runoff forecasts have declined as we went through late winter and early spring,” said BOR assistant area manager Roland Springer. “We didn’t get the water into the system that was projected early on.”

Since there are a number of reservoirs both upstream and downstream from the dam, Springer said it would be easy to send water to storage.

The Idaho Department of Water Resources said American Falls will have a lot of usage this year.

“In general, people want to use water from their reservoir space that’s easiest to refill,” said Lyle Swank, watermaster of Water District 1.

Springer said the water won’t be managed any differently than other years, how water rights and contracts are laid out will be the main factor.

“We can paint a broad brush and say there is differences between the upper and lower valley but it’s really how did the water rights lay out, how do the contracts lay out; we manage accordingly to that,” he said.

The recent rains have helped alleviate the region’s moisture deficit and lower recent irrigation demand.

Still, Swank predicts, “Overall the reservoir system will have some storage remaining, but a lot of the individual accounts will be out of storage by the end of this year.”

The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and is expected to end about 7:30 p.m. Water quality is also a topic at the meeting.

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