Reclamation ramps down flows out of McKay Dam

Media Contact: Michael Coffey, 208-378-5020,

For Release: May 18, 2019

PENDLETON, Ore. – Based on observed inflows overnight and updated weather forecasts, the Bureau of Reclamation will gradually decrease releases to 500 cubic feet per second out of McKay Dam by noon local time.

Significant rainfall in the Pendleton area is predicted to continue over the weekend and into the early week; therefore, the Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the National Weather Service, will continue to closely monitor weather conditions that inform the reservoir operations at McKay Dam and Reservoir.

On May 17, 2019, the releases of 1,200 cfs were implemented to capture anticipated high inflows to the reservoir overnight, and to create additional space in the reservoir in preparation for the continued pattern of significant rainfall that is forecasted through Tuesday.

“We remain committed to operating McKay Dam prudently to protect the public, and we’ll continue to communicate as predicted weather patterns affect the area,” said Sean Kimbrel, Umatilla Field Office manager.

Reclamation and local officials are advising the public to avoid the banks along McKay Creek. The water is cold and can be deep and fast in various locations. Additionally, changes in flows can compromise bank stability. A change in pressure associated with lower flows can allow banks that are in a weakened state to give way.

McKay Reservoir is currently at 97% of normal capacity. Waters stored in the normal capacity are authorized to provide water supply for irrigation, and fish and wildlife purposes during the dry summer months; however, an additional 6,000 acre-feet of storage are available for flood control purposes. The additional 6,000 af of storage is not shown on Reclamation’s Hydromet site.

Weather forecasts can be uncertain and change over time. Releases may increase or decrease if forecasted precipitation amounts are different than predicted. Reclamation and the National Weather Service will continue to closely monitor conditions during this rain event. The facility is operating as expected, and the dam is safe.

For real-time McKay Creek flow information from McKay Dam, visit

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.