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Army Corps Getting Ready For 'Big Water' In Northwest

Federal water and dam managers are draining reservoirs in the Columbia and Snake River basins to get ready for "big water" coursing downriver. In recent weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for bigger drawdowns -- or as the agency calls it "drafting" -- to protect against flooding. Supervisory engineer Peter Brooks says more room is needed to catch runoff from the bountiful snows of March.

Army Corps Getting Ready For 'Big Water' In Northwest

An aerial view of Grand Coulee Dam. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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An aerial view of Grand Coulee Dam. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

"Grand Coulee is being drafted close to two feet per day, which is quite a bit, not outside the realm of what we're authorized to do, but it's pretty steep," Brooks says. "Dworshak (Dam) is also drafting fairly steeply. Hungry Horse (reservoir) is in pretty good shape."

Brooks says additional water is being spilled over the tops of many federal dams to speed young salmon on their way to the ocean. He says river managers will move "aggressively" to refill reservoirs later this spring after the flood danger has passed.

"Because we want to get full or as near to full as possible," Brooks explains. "For example at Grand Coulee by the end of June, so things are ready for the July 4th weekend -- and of course, as full as we can for recreation."

The steep drawdown of the Grand Coulee reservoir (Lake Roosevelt) may force a temporary suspension of service on the Inchelium-Gifford ferry later this month.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.