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River flows will slow as lakes fill

Flows in the Applegate and upper Rogue rivers will be a bit lower than normal for the next 10 days to get Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs back on track to be full by May.

Water releases from Applegate Lake have dropped this week from the regular 170 cubic feet per second of water to 100 cfs, while flows out of Lost Creek Lake were trimmed from 900 cfs to 700 cfs.

The outflows will remain in effect until at least March 15, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the two reservoirs.

This winter, the Corps has been filling its two Jackson County reservoirs more slowly than normal, in part to ensure enough storage capacity was available should the higher-than-normal snow pack trigger potential flooding during a storm event.

But a dry February helped reduce the snow pack to 130 percent of normal, prompting the move to increase fill rates at both reservoirs.

Even at the increased fill rates, the two lakes will remain lower than their regular elevations until additional rains generate higher runoff into both projects, according to the Corps.

The changes were set by Corps hydrologists after consulting with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

Both projects were expected to be full around May 1, storing enough water for summer releases meant to benefit Rogue salmon and steelhead fisheries, as well as for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses as contracted with the Corps.

Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge tours

Bird enthusiasts are invited to the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge on March 15 to see first-hand the spring movement of migratory birds and the local habitat they rely on during their stop here.

Refuge managers are hosting a free three-hour tour that day at the Lower Klamath Refuge south of Klamath Falls. It is part of a series of free tours planned in conjunction with the refuge's centennial celebration.

The tour, led by refuge employees, will visit refuge lands that serve large flocks of migrating birds each spring and fall as part of movements along the Pacific Flyway.

Local birding experts will set up spotting scopes so participants will have the opportunity to observe and identify waterfowl and other birds now on the refuge.

From recent waterfowl counts, refuge managers estimate that more than 800,000 ducks, geese and swans are at the Lower Klamath and nearby Tule Lake national wildlife refuges. Also present are several species of raptors, including bald eagles, great horned owls, northern harriers and rough-legged hawks.

Tour participants are asked to meet at the Lower Klamath Refuge entrance areas at 8:15 a.m. for the first trip, which leaves at 8:30 a.m. A small bus will be available, while others will follow in their own vehicles. The morning tour is expected to end at 12:30 p.m.

A second tour will leave the entrance parking area at 1:15 p.m., with that tour expected to conclude at 4:15 p.m.

Participants should bring snacks, drinks, warm clothing and binoculars. Participants are asked to telephone the refuge office at 530-667-2231 for reservations.

For directions and more information, visit the refuge's Web site at www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges.

The Lower Klamath Refuge was the first refuge in the country to be set aside for waterfowl and marsh birds when President Theodore Roosevelt signed its authorization on Aug. 8, 1908.

To celebrate that upcoming birthday, free monthly events are planned for the entire year.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

River flows will slow as lakes fill