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Lost Creek releases low, but not a record

I see the Army Corps of Engineers has dropped the water releases from Lost Creek Lake into the Rogue River to a point that's lower than pretty much any time of the year. What gives? Floating the Rogue now is tougher than ever with these low releases.

— Tim T., Medford

The dearth of water in the upper Rogue River has not been lost to us at Since You Asked Central, where we self-admitted water nerds keep a close eye on all that is the Rogue River and its flows.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the help of state fish biologists and others, is trying to capture as much runoff as possible in the Rogue Basin's largest reservoir to improve the odds that ample water will be available this summer to aid salmon migration.

The more water captured now, the more that can be released in the hot summer periods that threaten salmon survival, Tim.

The drop in Lost Creek Lake releases to 900 cubic feet per second that began Friday was requested by Pete Samarin, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist who works closely with the Corps on water-release strategies that best benefit the Rogue's salmon and steelhead runs.

The reduced releases are a way to help Lost Creek Lake catch up on its filling schedule, as the lake on Monday was 12½ feet behind its regular filling schedule, Samarin says. Out-flows had been hovering around 1,100 cfs and Samarin was waiting for wild spring chinook salmon fry to emerge from the Rogue spawning gravels before cutting the flows further.

After consulting with the ODFW, the Corps in April 2015 cut flows down to 800 cfs during that year's drought, says Jason Cameron, the Corps' new project manager at Lost Creek Lake.

That's the lowest winter-spring releases on record since the project went on line in 1977.

The project's water-release manual calls for flows no lower than 700 cfs from February through April — unless lower flows are needed to help minimize flood waters.

Summer out-flows typically run at more than 2,000 cfs at Lost Creek Lake.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.