Dam drawdowns draining reservoirs
August 4, 2017
3,200 cfs flows creating stronger McKenzie River currents
BLUE RIVER: Increased water releases from Cougar and Blue River dams will limit access to some nearby recreation opportunities. The McKenzie River will also have higher than normal flows as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduces reservoir levels behind the dams to allow for maintenance and rehabilitation of the two dams’ spillway gates.
The road over Cougar Dam will remained closed through November 30th while spillway gate repairs are underway. Visitors accustomed to driving across the dam to get to the Echo day use area, boat launch and the East Fork lower trailhead will have a long (approximately two to three hour) drive to get to those sites. Access is via the Horse Creek (Forest Service Road 2638), spur road 356 and then onto 1993. FSR 19-500 past Slide Creek campground to access the Echo day use and boat launch sites is not suitable for passenger cars.
Boat ramps at Cougar Reservoir may not be accessible by Labor Day weekend due to the lower water levels. The Saddle Dam boat ramp at Blue River Reservoir will be accessible, but Lookout boat launch will be inaccessible after September 1st.
The water flow on the McKen-zie River began rising on July 15th, and is expected to reach levels up to 3,200 cubic feet per second, creating a stronger current than normal. The Oregon State Marine Board is reminding boaters to be aware of potential hazards, such as downed trees and other debris. Boaters, especially paddlers, are encouraged to plan ahead and visit http://www.boatoregon.com to learn about reported navigation obstructions. Boaters should always scout the river ahead of time and keep a sharp lookout. Report navigation obstructions to the Lane County Marine Patrol.
Flows will begin to recede after September 1st as water releases slow from each of the dams. Water flow on the river is expected to be about 1,500 cfs after September 15th.
The Corps is increasing daily water releases gradually from Cougar Dam, with a target daily release of 500 cubic feet per second. Another gradual increase began on August 1st, with water releases to eventually reach 1,000 cfs. Average water release for this time of year is about 580 cfs.
Water managers also will increase daily water releases gradually from Blue River reservoir to reach about 500 cfs by August 1st. Normal daily release from the dam is about 300 cfs.
Image Courtesy USACE. Blue River Reservoir was 99% full and Cougar Reservoir was 96% full prior to this week’s start of water releases from Army Corps projects.
McKenzie River Reflections