Of the Baker City Herald

The rapid snowmelt spawned by last week's heat wave is the chief culprit in the stream-swelling.

But not the only one.

andquot;The thunderstorms certainly didn't help anything,andquot; Rick Holden, Baker County's assistant roadmaster.

Well, maybe the storms helped a couple of things.

Brownlee and Phillips reservoirs, to be specific.

Phillips, the irrigation reservoir along the Powder River about 16 miles southwest of Baker City, reached its full pool mark of 73,500 acre-feet about 6:15 p.m. Monday.

That hadn't happened since late May of 2000.

This is the first year since then that farmers and ranchers should get their full share of irrigation water from Phillips. The past few years they've received less than half their allotments.

Brownlee, a Snake River impoundment that forms the border between Oregon and Idaho, also has risen rapidly over the past week.

Brownlee is about seven feet below full today, and should stay near that level through the Memorial Day weekend, said Dennis Lopez, a spokesman for Idaho Power Company, which owns and operates Brownlee Dam.

With the reservoir within seven feet of full, all of its boat ramps will be accessible during the holiday weekend, a busy time that includes the annual Huntington Catfish Derby.

That list of available ramps includes the one at Farewell Bend State Park near Huntington. That ramp, which was closed in early April due to strong currents and debris in the Snake River, re-opened at noon today, said Ben Cox, who works at Farewell Bend.

Cox cautioned boaters to watch for logs and other debris, however.

Several of Brownlee's boat ramps had been stranded above the water for much of the spring, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that strives to prevent floods, mandated that Idaho Power lower the water level in Brownlee to make room for spring runoff.

In early May, Idaho Power estimated Brownlee would be about 23 feet below full by May 26, and 17 feet below full by May 30.

But the Corps of Engineers recently revised its flood-control requirement and allowed Idaho Power to refill the reservoir more quickly, Lopez said.

He said Idaho Power officials plan to keep Brownlee near full at least through the Fourth of July.