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Since You Asked: Looking at Lost Creek Lake by the gallon brings some big numbers

I just read the “Since You Asked” column in your April 13, 2018, issue. It took me back to 1976. That was the year Lost Creek Lake was finished and the conversation was how many years it would take to fill, with guesses up to 10 years thrown around. If I recall correctly, the same question applied to Shasta Lake, which was also dry with house boat businesses going out of business. Most everyone was astonished that both Lost Creek Lake and Shasta Lake filled the spring of 1977. My question is, since the lake was completely empty, how many gallons did it take to fill Lost Creek Lake?

— Nancy F., Central Point

We at Since You Asked Central are nothing if not water nerds, and as journalists we also know it is quite a sketchy proposition to ask us to do math without some sort of collateral damage occurring.

So we posed your question and a few others to Jason Cameron, who heads the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ operations in the Rogue River Basin, which includes Lost Creek Lake.

You’re correct, Nancy, that Lost Creek dam was completed in 1976 and filled by May 1997 to its 100-percent capacity of 465,000 acre-feet of water.

Cameron computed that out for us to be about 152 billion gallons of water when the lake’s surface elevation is at 1,872 feet above sea level.

Each year the Corps typically draws the reservoir down to elevation 1,812 feet above sea level to create 60 feet of reservoir space for winter flood control. When the lake is at that level, it contains 285,000 acre-feet of water, Cameron says.

That pencils out to about 93 billion gallons of water, Cameron says.

That means the Corps releases 180,000 acre-feet of stored water, which is about 59 billion gallons of water, Cameron says.

But that doesn’t equal the amount the Corps releases between its full-reservoir status and the so-called “low pool” status for flood control, usually by Dec. 1, because the water that’s released between full pool and low pool includes the water that flows into the reservoir during that time.

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.