[env-trinity] Eureka! Times Standard- Trinity River higher than ever before

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Wed May 24 08:28:37 PDT 2006


      Article Launched: 05/24/2006 04:18:26 AM PDT 

Trinity River higher than ever before

      John Driscoll The Times-Standard 

      This year marks second biggest controlled release of water from Lewiston Dam since the 1960s; swimmers urged to be careful 

      Officials expect to release more water from Lewiston Dam than they planned weeks ago, bringing the Trinity River higher than it has been in any spring in decades. 

      So much water has flowed into Trinity Lake that when operators tried to release 8,500 cubic feet per second from the dam this week, they overshot the mark. Flows went as high as 10,000 cfs. 

      The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which was monitoring the river -- especially upstream from Douglas City near Weaverville -- didn't notice any problems. They cut the flows back to 8,500 cfs, but by Tuesday had ramped them back up to 10,000 cfs. If all goes well, the bureau may release 11,000 cfs for a few days sometime next week. 

      ”If we can hit it, we're going to try to,” said Doug Schleusner with the Trinity River Restoration Program. 

      The reason the program is able to release more than it planned is because less melt water is coming down the river's tributaries in the past few days, Schleusner said. It will be the second biggest controlled release of water from Lewiston Dam since it was built in the 1960s. Only once before, in January 1974, was more water released -- 14,000 cfs meant to prevent unsafe overfilling of the reservoir. 

      This winter saw twice the average snowpack in the Trinity Alps and 11 feet of snow was reported at 5,500 feet about 10 days ago. Part of the 2000 restoration plan for extremely wet years calls for flows of 11,000 cfs to reshape river banks and clear out sand and silt from salmon spawning gravel. The program is expected to be limited to 8,500 cfs out of concern for some properties in the Douglas City 



      Either way, there's a lot of water racing down the river. At Hoopa on Tuesday, 13,600 cfs was registered at the gauge, only 3,300 less than the maximum flow ever recorded. 

      The cold torrent will be in full swing for Memorial Day weekend, and U.S. Forest Service safety officials are hoping people will be wary. Other rivers, too, are swollen, including the Klamath and the Salmon rivers. People should realize that beaches and drop-offs may have changed significantly with the heavy flows the rivers have experienced this winter and spring. 

      Rafting companies have said they are choosing different routes from their usual runs in certain areas, or are floating tributaries until the bigger rivers come down. But it is swimmers and other non-professionals who don't keep up with river conditions like outfitters do who are most at risk. 

      Six Rivers National Forest River and Wilderness Manager Bob Hemus said he'll be visiting popular sites along the river to encourage people to be safe. Kids are vulnerable, Hemus said, especially when they wander along the edge of a murky river. It can be difficult to see drop-offs and sometimes impossible to resist the current once caught in it. 

      ”It's the parents that really need to keep a heads-up,” Hemus said. “This year it's not going to be the status quo.” 

      He said wearing a lifejacket and appropriate clothing and staying with at least one other person are basic measures that can help people stay safe. 
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