[env-trinity] Dam flows boost Trinity River for now; officials say dry conditions mean less water released into river

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Thu Apr 24 07:41:46 PDT 2014


Dam flows boost Trinity River for now; officials say dry conditions mean less water released into river
Lorna Rodriguez/The Times-Standard Eureka Times Standard
Posted: Times-Standard.com 
As Lewiston Dam waters are released into the Trinity River, officials are advising the public to use caution while visiting its banks, even though this year's flow into the river will be reduced on account of the statewide drought.
”It's a relatively rare event, but it's not outside the realm of possibility,” said Ernest Clarke, a science program coordinator for the Trinity River Restoration Program, a multi-agency program made up of organizations including the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. “We're making the appropriate flow release.”
The flows started increasing Wednesday, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation public affairs officer Louis Moore said. Up to 1,500 cubic feet of water per second -- the equivalent of 75,000 to 80,000 jugs of water or basketballs, according to Moore -- will be released each day until the end of May before being reduced. The rates are expected to drop to 1,200 cfs in early June, and will dip to the summer level of 450 cfs on June 26.
A total of 369,000 acre feet -- an acre foot is 326,000 gallons -- will be released during this “critically dry” water year, according to the bureau. During “extremely wet” years, 815,000 acre feet are let out.
”You need the entire suite,” Clarke said. “You don't just need extremely wet years.”
Temperatures suitable for fish will still be maintained, and fine sediment will still be flushed through the system, he added.
The releases are designed to scour sediment in the river and undermine willows on gravel bars as part of a long-term restoration effort after the fish population was impacted by the construction of dams, Moore said.
”It's really to ... make the river a better environment. Not just for the species, but also for other wildlife and users of the river system,” he said.
As the river level rises, people are advised to take safety precautions, including being aware of the dam release schedule and taking note that the water temperature will hover around 55 degrees, officials said.
”The flows can dump pretty rapidly when they start the releases,” National Weather Service spokesman Troy Nicolini said. “People often don't understand even if you're a very strong swimmer, the very cold water can diminish their ability to swim very rapidly.
”The process is called cold water paralysis,” he added. “It sends all of the blood from the arms and legs into the torso to keep the organs warm.”
People are also encouraged to remember the river is always changing.
”The river people recreated on last summer is not the same as this summer,” Nicolini said. “It's important not to assume a river is completely unchanged from one summer.
”I'm not trying to scare people away from the river. It's a great place to recreate. I'm just trying to make people aware,” he said.
At a glance:
A schedule of the flow releases can be found at usbr.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/detail.cfm?RecordID=46566
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez at times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.
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