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Corps facing historically dry year in Rogue River Basin

Published April 28, 2022
A high-up view of a stunningly blue lake on an equally stunningly sunny afternoon. The lake is surrounded by mountains, hills, and forests of evergreen trees.

Lost Creek Lake, the reservoir behind William L. Jess Dam, is currently 66% full, as of April 28 (photo from March 2022). System-wide reservoir storage is 36% below the rule curve. Year-to-date precipitation in the Rogue River Basin is 77% of normal.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Army water managers for the Rogue River Basin will hold a virtual information session May 3, 3-4 p.m., to discuss challenges that are hampering efforts to refill the basin’s two reservoirs ahead of the summer conservation season.

Low rainfall, combined with the lingering effects of previous drought years, have created a historically dry year for Lost Creek and Applegate lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District (Corps), which manages the two reservoirs, expects these conditions to impact multiple interests across the basin.

"We're in a multi-year drought with uncertainty of the future,” said Salina Hart, chief of reservoir regulation and water quality. “We don't know that things are going to get better. We're prepared for the worst, and we're adapting."

In addition, the Corps started its refill season this February with lower-than-normal water levels because it used additional stored water, referred to as carryover storage, to support fish migration and survival in the Applegate and Rogue rivers last summer and fall.

The Corps-operated reservoirs in the Rogue depend on spring and early summer rainfall to refill, and a lack of precipitation is limiting those efforts. To help explain the situation, Corps staff will host a virtual public information session May 3, 3-4 p.m. The Corps invites the public to attend the session to learn more about current operations, future forecasts, and impacts to the Rogue River Basin.

Date: Tuesday, May 3, 3-4 p.m.


Call: 1-844-800-2712 (US) (Call-in toll-free number)

Access Code: 1999-18-2318 #

The Corps encourages questions but asks participants to send questions using the chat function in WebEx during call.

The Rogue River Basin Project’s two reservoirs are currently 63% full. System-wide reservoir storage is 36% below the rule curve. Year-to-date precipitation across the Rogue was 77% of normal, as of April 28, with most of the rain falling earlier in the year and this month. The snowpack (snow water equivalent) right now is 79% of median for the Rogue. Snowmelt helps keep reservoir elevations up in the summer if it lasts and matches outflows, but it accounts for less of the system’s storage than rain does.

The Corps manages reservoir inflows based on a “rule curve,” which is the authorized maximum elevation on a given day to balance flood risk management and storage for other authorized purposes, such as hydropower and irrigation supply. The Corps keeps the Rogue Basin’s reservoirs lower in the winter to reduce downstream flooding and refills them in the spring to prepare for recreation and adequate flows for fish.

Portland District encourages the public to check its “teacup diagrams” before heading out to recreate. These diagrams show water elevations for Corps-managed reservoirs. Rogue River Basin teacup diagram: or

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Chris Gaylord

Release no. 22-013

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