Federal officials seek fire protection for water supplies

Idaho and the West are at risk of having rivers and projects sullied, officials say.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSJuly 20, 2013 

  • Lucky Peak levels to drop

    Irrigation demands amid drought conditions are leading to a drawdown of Lucky Peak Reservoir about a month earlier than normal. The impact will be felt the most by boaters.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the reservoir and Lucky Peak Dam, said Friday that the lake elevation will drop between 1 and 2 feet a day once releases begin Monday.

    "As water levels lower to a point where a boat ramp can't be safely used, we will close it," Lucky Peak State Park manager Keith Hyde said in a news release.

    Typical lake elevation is 3,055 feet. The Robie Creek boat ramp, at 3,046 feet, is expected to the first affected. The last would be the Turner Gulch ramp, at 2,905 feet.

    Boaters are advised that moored vessels could become stranded as water levels recede.

A public-private partnership aimed at thinning out vegetation that could fuel wildfires that threaten water and hydroelectric facilities was announced Friday.

The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, which pairs agencies that look after water projects with one that oversees forests, was unveiled at Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, Colo., by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"When a forest fire takes place, it can compromise the water supply," Vilsack said. "Sediment can build up, and the ash created by fires can cause huge problems downstream."

The partnership will aid agencies in the leveraging of resources to reduce the risk of water supplies being fouled, Vilsack said.

The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are launching the effort with a pilot project in northern Colorado.

The USDA, which oversees the Forest Service, and the Interior Department are formalizing partnerships around the Boise River reservoirs; Salt River project in Arizona; Mid-Pacific Region in California; Yakima Basin in Washington; and the Horsethief Reservoir and Flathead River in Montana.

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