Findings Suggest Against Draining Lake Cascade

Media Contact: John Redding , (208) 378-5212
Steve Dunn , (208) 383-2222

For Release: February 04, 2004

The Bureau of Reclamation and Idaho Department of Fish and Game have jointly decided to discontinue operational changes at Lake Cascade which called for draining the reservoir next year. Further study indicated that such an action could have significant negative impacts on flows for endangered and threatened salmon. The agencies will also discontinue the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.

Previously IDFG determined that in order to bring back fishing in Lake Cascade, the number of pikeminnow and suckers must be significantly reduced. The proposal was for Reclamation to lower the water elevation of Lake Cascade to the lowest level possible to allow IDFG to remove the undesirable fish and restock the lake with perch and trout. The drafting of the lake for fish removal would have been a one-time occurrence, planned for 2005.

Because significant environmental impacts could occur from drafting the lake, Reclamation planned to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Reclamation and IDFG held public scoping meetings in August 2003 to collect comments from the public and accepted written comments into September.

After receiving comments from the public, Reclamation water experts conducted studies on draining and refilling the reservoir. The studies examined whether the project would affect irrigation deliveries, salmon flow augmentation supplies, the reservoir conservation pool, river flows and other uses of the Payette River drainage.

The water studies indicated that irrigation deliveries could be met in nearly all years for some drawdown plans, however salmon flow augmentation supplies were likely to be affected by all of the drawdown scenarios analyzed. Flow augmentation shortages could extend for several years after the drawdown if drought conditions persisted.

Reclamation, under the Endangered Species Act, has committed to provide up to 427,000 acre-feet of flow augmentation water from the upper Snake River basin to aid in juvenile salmon migration. The Payette River annually supplies approximately one-third of the salmon flow augmentation obtained by Reclamation under Idaho water law and, in addition, provides irrigation water to more than 100,000 acres of farmland.

The small potential for irrigation shortages coupled with the much higher probability of a reduction in salmon flow augmentation water is great enough of an impact that both Reclamation and IDFG can no longer consider the draining of Lake Cascade a viable option for sport fish restoration. Both IDFG and Reclamation will continue to cooperate to rebuild the fishery in Lake Cascade for Idaho's fishermen and the community of Cascade, Idaho.

"Although disappointed that we will not be able to proceed with what we felt was the best solution for restoring Lake Cascade's yellow perch fishery, we will continue to work to find solutions, said Dale Allen, IDFG Regional Fishery Manager in McCall. "We are going back and reviewing all alternatives that we had developed previously and also reviewing comments that we received during the public scoping process. We are committed to restoring the Lake Cascade fishery for the fishermen of Idaho."

Questions concerning fish restoration efforts at Lake Cascade should be directed to Mr. Dale Allen at the IDFG McCall office at (208) 634-8137 or Mr. Mark Gamblin at the IDFG Boise office at (208) 334-3791. Questions concerning Reclamation's future role in the project can be directed to Mr. Steve Dunn at (208) 383-2222.

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