News Releases

Corps manages scarce water resources, hosts public information sessions

Published May 1, 2020
Cougar Reservoir

Cougar Reservoir

After a dry winter and spring so far, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District (Corps) is working with regional stakeholders to manage a scarcity of water throughout the Willamette Valley Project in the upcoming months.

The Corps invites the public to attend online public information sessions to learn more about current operations, future forecasts and potential impacts.

Information sessions will provide a general overview of water conditions throughout the Willamette Valley and will dive deeper into basin-specific information. Additionally, the Corps’ Dam Safety program manager will provide an overview of ongoing dam safety projects in the Valley. Participants are invited to call into any meeting, regardless of location.

Wednesday, May 6, 5-6 p.m. - South Santiam basin
Thursday, May 7, 5-6 p.m. - North Santiam basin
Friday, May 8, 12-1 p.m. - Lane Co. / Fern Ridge

Join us online:
Call: 1-877-402-9753 (US) (Call-in toll-free number)
Access Code: 932 700 4 #
Security Code: 928 37 #
Attendee ID: 29 #

Questions are encouraged. However, for the sake of time, the Corps asks participants to send any questions in through the “chat” function in the WebEx during the call. Questions will be answered after the meeting and posted online on our website at

The Willamette Valley Project, comprised of 13 dams and reservoirs, is primarily a rain-driven system. Basin-wide, reservoirs are currently 72 percent full, sitting 21 percent below the rule curve, or the congressionally-authorized maximum reservoir water elevation for this time of year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast below-normal water supply and higher than average temperatures throughout Oregon this year. This forecast, along with the lack of precipitation received so far this year, is setting the stage for “abnormally dry” to “moderately drought” conditions to continue through summer.

Based on current conditions and forecasts, the Corps is working in collaboration with federal, state and local agencies. This collaboration helps to inform and plan water management operations that optimize the water resources available to balance the needs of up and downstream users in “drought year” conditions.  

The Corps manages water across the Willamette Valley Project during the summer months to keep reservoir water levels as high as possible for recreation, while also managing for flow requirements downstream that support water supply, irrigation, and fish and wildlife habitats.

To meet legal requirements under the Endangered Species Act, the Corps must release specific amounts of water from each dam to maintain adequate downstream river flows for listed species.

These releases downstream also help maintain water quality and provide for contracted irrigation water. With these releases and surface evaporation during the drier summer months, many reservoirs are “drawn down” throughout the summer.

Willamette basin-wide snowpack was slightly above average earlier this spring. However, recent warmer temperatures have caused early snowmelt, dropping snowpack to below normal at less than 60 percent of average. Warm weather this spring and the related snowmelt may increase inflows slightly at present, but reduces the snowmelt available later in the summer.  

To learn more about the Willamette Valley Project, visit

Lauren Bennett

Release no. 20-008

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