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Despite low water, Lost Creek likely to fill, Applegate a maybe

I know it’s been a low snowpack year in Southern Oregon, and we are likely headed to drought status. But I am wondering if Lost Creek and Applegate reservoirs will fill this year.

— Terry T., Medford

Storms forecast to begin arriving today should give us a clearer picture whether Jackson County’s two largest reservoirs — and the ones leaned on for wild salmon protections in the summer — will fill.

Lost Creek Lake has a “very strong probability” of filling by its scheduled fill date of May 1, says Jason Cameron, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rogue Basin operations manager.

Cameron isn’t so sure yet about Applegate Lake, but the upcoming storms could put it on schedule to fill, as well. He says Corps hydrologists are awaiting the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service’s April streamflow forecasts to fuel computer programs that will predict filling schedules.

On Wednesday, Lost Creek Lake was listed at 1,858 feet above sea level, or 14 feet from full. That puts it at 5 feet below the so-called “rule curve,” or filling schedule to hit full by the May 1 target.

With outflows dialed down to 900 cubic feet per second for the past several weeks, the Corps is capturing as much inflow as possible. If this week’s storm fronts kick inflows to above 3,000 cfs for a few days, that deficit could be recouped.

The deficit is larger at Applegate Lake, where the Applegate River Basin has seen far less rain and snow than the upper Rogue Basin this year, records show.

Applegate Lake was listed Wednesday at 1,944 feet above sea level, which is 33 feet from full and 22 feet below its regular filling schedule.

However, the Applegate Basin’s history of quick and high inflows could see that deficit wiped out by next week.

“If (storms) hit just right, it’ll help,” Cameron said. “But with the snowpack low, it’s going to be a low-water year.”

Outflows at Applegate Lake have been held down to 125 cfs for several weeks to aid in capturing flow.

Basinwide, the snowpack Wednesday was measured at 58 percent of normal, according to the NRCS.

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.