Here's How The Boise River Levels Are Controlled
Last week, we reported on closures on the Greenbelt due to a swelling Boise River. But even the flooding is part of a controlled process involving three dams: Lucky Peak, Arrowrock and Anderson Ranch.
Lucky Peak Dam is controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers while the other two are controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation. The dams are operated as a system so the two federal agencies work together.
Steve Hall is the water management program manager for the Corps of Engineers, in charge of flood risk management for the Snake River system, which includes the Boise River.
“We have a really, really good relationship that has been built over time with the staff at the Bureau of Reclamation,” he says.
The Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation work together to decide how much water to release from the dams. It is a collaborative, complex process since they have to balance two needs: the need to avoid flooding, and the need to store water for irrigation in the reservoirs. Ultimately, the Corps of Engineers is responsible for flood risk management and the Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for irrigation.
The agencies consult with several other federal departments to estimate yearly water intake. Still, snowpack and other natural factors can be unpredictable.
“If they see something, or if we see something, we’ll get on the phone with them and we’ll talk it through, and make a decision and proceed,” Hall says.
So, although the Boise River flow rate is currently too high for recreation, the high water levels are helping to manage the risk of flooding in the reservoirs. In the meantime, Lucky Peak Lake is 97 percent full and open for recreation.
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