By Jayson Jacoby
The relatively paltry snowpack in Central and Eastern Idaho is a boon for boaters, anglers and others who spend time at, and especially on, Baker County's Brownlee Reservoir.
The scant snow means there's little threat of flooding this spring on the Snake and Columbia rivers. The result is that Idaho Power Co., which owns and operates Brownlee Dam, will not have to lower the water level in the reservoir nearly as much as in the past couple of springs.
Brownlee is the 53-mile-long reservoir on the Snake River that forms the border between Baker County and Idaho.
As of this morning, the reservoir was about 23 feet below full.
Brownlee should stay near that level, at which all but two of the reservoir's major boat-launching ramps are usable, for the rest of the flood control season, according to a press release from Idaho Power.
Last spring, by contrast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which dictates Brownlee's level for flood control purposes, required Idaho Power to lower the reservoir by more than 50 feet during April.
And in April 2011, when the snowpack was well above average, Brownlee dipped to 62 feet below full.
At the current water level, boat ramps including those at Hewitt Park near Richland, Farewell Bend State Park near Huntington, and Woodhead Park on the Idaho shore are submerged.
The two exceptions are Spring Recreation Site, also near Huntington, and Holcomb Park, which is next to Hewitt Park on the reservoir's Powder River arm.
Current water levels are available online at www.idahopower.com, or by calling 1-800-422-3143.