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Storm prompts low flow out of Lost Creek Lake

I noticed during the recent storms that the amount of water released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers out of Lost Creek Lake was down to 500 cubic feet per second into the Rogue River. That's the lowest release from Lost Creek Dam that I've ever heard of. Have they ever gone lower than that?

— Jeff B., by email

That release of 500 cfs is the absolute minimum release from Lost Creek Lake and it's just enough to keep the far upper Rogue flowing before natural flow begins at Big Butte Creek, according to the Corps.

The flow was reduced so much because heavy tributary flows into the Rogue downstream of the dam had the Rogue near bank-full at Dodge Bridge where Highway 234 crosses the river. The Corps dialed down the releases to keep it from rising there, while still ensuring plenty of storage available in the Rogue's largest reservoir.

"For us to go to 500 cfs in the wintertime is very unusual," says Jim Buck, the Corps' operations officer in the Rogue Basin. "That's the absolute lowest. It's just enough to get water up to Big Butte."

But it has happened before.

On Jan. 17, 2011, the flows into Lost Creek Lake were a smokin' 12,270 cfs and the Corps had to dial down the releases at Lost Creek Dam to 500 cfs. It happened earlier on New Year's Eve in 2005, on Jan. 22, 1999, on Dec. 21, 1998, and on Jan. 1, 1997 — the infamous New Year's Day flood that swept mud, water and debris into Ashland's Lithia Park and damaged other streamside properties throughout the Rogue Valley.

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