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By Andre Stepankowsky

Southwest Washington rivers are expecting some of the highest spring runoffs in the Pacific Northwest this year, and operators of Lewis and Cowlitz river dams are getting ready for it with major drawdowns of upstream reservoirs.

That has left boat launches at Riffe Lake and Swift Reservoir high and dry.

Riffe Lake, the 23-mile reservoir behind the 606-foot-high Mossyrock Dam, is down about 80 feet, exposing ravines and terrain flooded when the state’s highest dam rose on the upper Cowlitz River nearly five decades ago.

“It’s awesome to see. It looks like the Grand Canyon out there,� said Ken Swanson, a Longview resident who tried unsuccessfully to launch his boat there Monday.

The water surface had dropped so dramatically that the end of the Mossyrock boat launch was 200 feet from the water, he estimated.

Area reservoirs usually are drawn down each winter to make room to store potential floodwaters, but Riffe Lake is down 30 feet more than its historical average and about 50 feet more than a federal operating license requires.

“We’re expecting a greater than normal springtime runoff. We want to have room in the reservoir to accommodate that,� said Todd Lloyd, power analyst for Tacoma Power, owner of Mossyrock Dam.

There are two additional reasons for the big drawdown, Lloyd said. One, the utility is extending a boat launch at Taidnapam Park at the east end of Riffe Lake. Two, Tacoma Power will start rebuilding Mossyrock Dam’s two turbines starting in March.

“That reduces our capacity about 50 percent. I want to accommodate spring runoff without having to spill water,� Lloyd said.

Spilling water through floodgates instead of power-generating turbines is like throwing money away. It also can harm fish, Lloyd noted.

The last time Riffe Lake was so low was in 2001, a drought year, when the reservoir dropped 113 feet below full level.

Lloyd said record or near-record amounts of snowpack are expected in the Cowlitz Basin this year, and he expects the reservoir to start filling as warm weather starts melting that snowpack. He expects no problem refilling the lake in time for the recreation season in the spring.

The Weather Service forecasts spring runoff from both the Cowlitz and Lewis river basins to be 130 percent of normal this year. Though short of record amounts, the predicted runoff for those two systems would be among the highest forecast this year for tributaries in the Columbia River Basin.

Snowpack levels in the Southwest Washington Cascades still are running about 200 percent of normal. Continued cold weather, higher power demand and low runoff are why Swift Reservoir, located south of Mount St. Helens, is down to 83 feet, said Jan Mitchell, spokeswoman for Pacific Power, said Wednesday.

Yale Reservoir, the second of three reservoirs Pacific Power operates in conjunction with hydroelectric dams on the Lewis River, is down 27 feet.

Combined, Yale and Swift are down about 110 feet. That’s about 90 feet more winter flood storage space than Pacific Power’s federal license mandates.

With so much snow around, though, the utility expects the reservoirs to refill quickly once temperatures rise.

“Swift will be the last to refill. We do expect all (boat launches) to be in service for recreation season,� Mitchell said.



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Then as now, what remains paramount is that differences in any legislation be amicably and methodically reconciled in order to ensure our intelligence community has the tools it needs to monitor those who seek to harm us without upending civil liberties. It is the duty of the Executive Branch to inform this process. America's security cannot be captive to partisan bickering and distortions.

It is our hope that as this debate moves forward, your comments and clarity on this issue will best represent the men and women who employ these tools every day to keep America safe.

We appreciate your leadership and your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

RAND BEERS
RICHARD A. CLARKE
DON KERRICK
SUZANNE SPAULDING

It's worth pointing out that the Republicans and President Bush are the ones opposed to the 30 day extension, if it is sooooooo effective and sooooo intergral a part of our nations security, why would they oppose it ?
 

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I think they did close to the same thing last year, and the damn lake barely ever reached full. I remember it almost reaching the boat launch.... but still backing the trailer into mud to get the boat floating. Hopefully their forcasts are correct. im lookin forward to some springtime smalley action!
 

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Possibly the best silver fishing i've seen on riffe was in '01 when the lake was high and dry! It was a bank game fishing in the river holes below 108... We'll see what happnes
 

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Tup: perfect.........keep the spring level between 4000-6000 and the summer level between 2000-3500 c.f.s and it should be a good time on the cow!
 

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On the non sunny side of the hill we still have snow at 2500 ft..Upper ends of swift I heard had up to 10 ft of snow...since thanksgiving, here behind my place at 2000ft, total snow pack was 87 inchs so far!!!

Me thinks Dam operators do not want to have another 96 flood! Tup:
 

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This last weekend the snow level was at 2000 ft and got another 6-12 inches of snow. I for one am stoked for this summer and fall. I'm expecting some of the best fishing in a few years!
 
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