Mild weather contributes to East Branch's low water level

WILCOX – During Wednesday morning's East Branch Dam Safety Project stakeholders meeting, representatives from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, discussed updates of the project to area residents, local partners and other agency personnel.Werner Loehlein, water management specialist with the Corps, explained current water levels since the last dam safety meeting held in September."East Branch is a multiple-purpose project, with its two primary purposes flood control and low water regulation for water quality," Loehlein said. The district is currently operating the dam and reservoir under a lower pool to reduce risk as part of the Dam Safety Initiative.Currently the district is attempting to fill the lake to the interim summer pool elevation of 1,650 feet, which is 20 feet lower than the normal target summer pool. The success of meeting lake levels is dependent on the amount of precipitation within the Clarion River Basin. The dam is continuing to provide additional water to maintain downstream water quality and temperature. As of April 16, East Branch is near 1640 feet deep. An annual review of how the Corps plans to operate the reservoir pool was conducted in March 2012, in which the district recommended maintaining its current interim water control plan. They continue to monitor real-time water temperature at the dam outflow from March through November. "Thus far, water levels have been successful, however now is supertight," Loehlein said. "When we saw that we weren't getting snow this year, we cheated a little and started to fill the summer pool early. We had precipitation, but it was only a little amount that went right into the ground. Last several weeks have flattened out due to lack of significant precipitation. We still have another 10 feet to go. Right now it doesn't look good because obviously if the current trend continues, we're not getting any rainfall."Pick up a copy of the Thursday, April 19, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.