When Jim and Joyce Laughery of Eastslope Outfitters saw the Afterbay just below Yellowtail Dam dewatered this week, they sent out an email blast with a photo seeking more information.
The Bureau of Reclamation's Tom Tauscher was quick to replay that the reservoir, meant to even out water releases from the dam before they hit the Bighorn River near Fort Smith, was "purposely lowered to allow for required full gate travel testing, position indication tracking accuracy verification, upper and lower limit verification and routine maintenance of the five radial gates."
Tauscher went on to explain that the testing is an annual requirement that has been taking place for "quite some time." The Bureau of Reclamation is also using the lower water to install monitoring equipment. "The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of this week."
The query from Laughery comes as the bureau provided its outlook of predicted water flows in the Bighorn River through next April, estimated at about 3,250 cubic feet per second.
In looking back at August, the bureau said streamflows into Bighorn Lake were 147 percent of average. The September inflow into the lake is expected to equal 198,600 acre-feet (123 percent of average).