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Emigrant Lake water levels sink to new low

It sure seems like Emigrant Lake is super-low right now. I heard this was one of the worst water years for it on record. It sure seems that way. But is it true?

— Brian, email submission

Well, Brian, three weeks ago we reported that the Talent Irrigation District reservoirs east of Ashland were experiencing the lowest water levels in their history, which dates back to the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Since that article, things have gotten worse at Emigrant Lake, where the reservoir was listed Friday at just 2% of full. That’s just 890 acre-feet of water in a reservoir meant to hold up to 39,000 acre-feet of water for TID irrigators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which built the reservoir.

It’s so low that the water intake used by the Jackson County Parks Department to take Emigrant water, treat it and use it at its Emigrant Lake County Park is high and dry for the first time, parks Manager Steve Lambert says.

The other TID reservoirs are Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes. They are at 4% and 7% full, respectively, with nothing coming out right now, Bureau of Reclamation records show.

Normally, flows from those two reservoirs would go to Emigrant Lake.

Emigrant keeps dropping because TID is releasing 3 cubic feet per second into Emigrant Creek to maintain minimum flows for wild salmon and steelhead in Bear Creek a short distance down.

Rain is forecast for next week, but that might not bring a whole lot of instant relief. The ground is so dry that much of that rain is expected to soak in and not translate into substantial runoff, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Stay tuned.

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