Lost Creek Lake levels will remain lower in early summer but higher in late summer than last year under a new draft water-release strategy for the main reservoir feeding the Rogue River.

Lost Creek Lake levels will remain lower in early summer but higher in late summer than last year under a new draft water-release strategy for the main reservoir feeding the Rogue River.

This year's draft plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers represents the first time in three years the Corps will generally follow standard water releases into the Rogue through Lost Creek dam.

The Rogue Basin is projected to produce slightly-less-than-normal water runoff, and the Corps no longer has to keep the reservoir at less than full over concerns that spillway gates used only during extreme flood-control events might fail.

The Corps last year drew the reservoir down 8 feet more than normal — releasing 10,000 acre-feet more water than normal in both the summer and fall — to keep reservoir levels under those spillway gates amid concerns they could fail to open when under water pressure.

The radial gates were reinspected and deemed operable this past winter, allowing for a more standard filling and draw-down schedule for Jackson County's largest reservoir.

"It looks like a pretty good year, as far as water supply," says Jim Buck, the Corps' Rogue Basin operations manager. "And it helps that we no longer have the spillway gates issue."

The reservoir has 180,000 acre-feet of water allocated to benefit spring chinook and fall chinook salmon migration and spawning. The draft release schedule, which is based largely on recommendations from state hydrologists and fish biologists, is expected to be adopted next month.

The draft plan calls for the current release of 2,600 cubic feet per second at the dam through Thursday, then flows of 3,000 cfs throughout the entire month of June to help draw spring chinook up the Rogue and stave off natural disease outbreaks tied to low and warm flows.

Flows for the first 10 days of July would drop to 2,500 cfs and then down to 1,900 cfs from July 11 through Aug. 31. Flows would drop to 1,700 cfs for the first 10 days of September, then down to 1,300 cfs for the second 10 days of the month before leveling out at 1,000 cfs from Sept. 21 through October.

The boat ramp at Stewart State Park is expected to be usable into mid-September, and the Corps expects to reach the reservoir's minimum elevation of 1,812 feet above sea level by Sept. 20. After that, plans are to release 1,000 cfs to the Rogue.

The Takelma Boat Ramp will be usable year-round, according to the Corps.

Applegate Lake in southwest Jackson County is the other Corps' managed reservoir and feeds the Applegate River, which is a main Rogue tributary.

At Applegate Lake, the Corps expects water levels on July 4 to be between 5 feet and 10 feet lower than last year and 6 feet to 13 feet lower than last year on Labor Day.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.