Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Flow Maintained below Wyoming's Jackson Lake Dam

JACKSON — The State of Wyoming and the Bureau of Reclamation Upper Snake Field Office have been working together to maintain flow releases from Jackson Lake Dam. Low snowpack above Jackson Lake and high storage contents in the upper Snake River reservoir system have led to a reservoir system imbalance, which creates the potential for storage loss to the upper Snake River system.

Wyoming, in close collaboration with Reclamation, has decided to make available its 2023 storage water to support releases from Jackson Lake Dam consistent with the Guidelines for Decision-Making in Operations of Wyoming’s Contracted Space in Palisades Reservoir developed by Reclamation and Wyoming in 1996. Utilizing the Operational Guidelines this year will satisfy Wyoming’s need to maintain 280 cfs releases from Jackson Lake Dam during this winter and spring and protect the 4.5-mile stretch of river below the dam, while also allowing Reclamation to maintain its legal and contractual commitments to Idaho irrigators.

The stretch of river below the dam is home to the world-famous Oxbow Bend and is critical habitat for Snake River cutthroat trout, shore birds, wildlife and the bluehead sucker — a species of greatest conservation need. Any reduction of water flow below 280 cfs in this area can harm the ecosystem and negatively affect outdoor recreation, tourism and angler opportunities.

“It was important that we get out in front of this possible scenario early and to engage in real-time coordination with our partners to adaptively manage releases,” said Jennifer Carrington, Reclamation regional director. “Reclamation is committed to maintaining 280 cfs outflow from Jackson this winter/spring, while working with Idaho irrigators in the upper Snake to ensure their contractual entitlements are satisfied.”

According to current forecasts, there is a high likelihood of a spill past Milner Dam in southern Idaho occurring this season before Jackson Lake fills. To support the fishery below Jackson Lake Dam, Wyoming has decided to exercise its water right and will call for 230 cfs of the 280 cfs Jackson outflow to be released from Wyoming’s 2023 allocation. If conditions improve in the coming weeks, however, a cease water order from Wyoming would be submitted.

“The State Engineer's Office, Wyoming Water Development Office and Game and Fish will monitor water levels throughout the year and work with Reclamation to find workable solutions to maintain flows during the fall and winter months at levels that will avoid negative impacts to the Snake River ecosystem below Jackson Lake,” said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish director.