The Owyhee River system and reservoir are facing serious drought, but the river’s famed trout population below Owyhee Dam will likely survive the summer.
“We recognize that as a tremendous asset, and we’re not going to do anything to harm it,” said Jay Chamberlain, project manager for Owyhee Dam.
The river is currently flowing about 150 cfs below the dam, which is roughly half the usual summer flows. It’s expected to remain at that flow until around mid-August, Chamberlain said. After that, flows will drop to 90 to 100 cfs and remain there until early to mid-October, although it could drop as early as late September.
When it drops in the fall, flows will likely be between 12 and 15 cfs, down from the low flows from last fall through early spring of 20 to 30 cfs. Chamberlain said the minimum flows in the fall would be cut back at roughly the same percentage as the irrigation flows.
However, there will be plenty of cool water available. Chamberlain pointed out that the Bureau of Reclamation’s website shows only 3 percent of the water remaining in the reservoir, but it's misleading because it only measures irrigation water. There’s another 405,000 acre-feet of water that’s “inactive.” That will continue to provide 12 to 15 cfs of cool water downstream to sustain the trout population.
“That fishery was created and germinated off that minimum flow, and it should continue to do well,” he said.
You can see current reservoir levels here.