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Environment

Lake Cascade has a toxic algae problem. Can better water management fix it?

cascade_dam.jpg
Monica Gokey
/
Boise State Public Radio
Cascade dam.

Increasing toxic algae blooms in Lake Cascade have put a damper on water users in recent summers. The lake is more susceptible to harmful algae because it’s shallow, which makes it warm. Now, the Bureau of Reclamation wants to find out if they can manage the lake differently to reduce the problem.

A $308,200 federal grant will fund a study through 2023 evaluating how changes in water management — the timing and volume of water released throughout the upper Payette system — could improve water quality in Lake Cascade.

"Deadwood Dam, Black Canyon and Lake Cascade; these reservoirs and dams kind of operate as a system," said Christine Schuldheisz, public affairs officer with the Columbia-Pacific Northwest division of the Bureau of Reclamation.

According to Schuldheisz, computer modeling will help map.

"In any given year, how we operate the dam and the reservoirs, taking that data and figuring out where we can improve water quality," Schuldheisz said.

The bureau plans to involve other stakeholders who rely on the upper Payette River basin, including downstream irrigation districts, wildlife management and others in the conversation about any potential changes to water management.

Any recommendations resulting from the study would need to be federally reviewed before being implemented.