Steady to rising reservoir levels during the forage fish spawn at Fort Peck Reservoir may be possible this spring, according to the Army Corps of Engineers which manages the the dam.
"The forage fish spawn generally occurs from early April through mid-June. Maintaining a steady to rising reservoir level during this period is beneficial for successful spawning and hatching of the forage fish, which are an important food source for walleye and other game fish," the Corps said in a news release this week.
To maintain the level of Fort Peck, the Corps will have to reduce dam releases. Mountain snowpack is 94 percent of normal in the reach above Fort Peck. Typically 79 percent of the peak mountain snowpack accumulation has occurred by March 1.
Fort Peck releases averaged 12,500 cubic feet per second in February. Releases will be stepped down starting this month to 6,000 cfs where they will be held steady for the remainder of the month. The reservoir ended February at an elevation of 2,222.2 feet above sea level, down 1.8 feet from the previous month. It is forecast to rise about a foot during March.
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Fort Peck set a record high elevation of 2,252.3 feet on June 15, 2011, 2.3 feet above the top of the exclusive flood control pool.
At the current lake level, the boat ramps at Crooked Creek Recreation Area, on the western end of the reservoir, and Nelson Creek Recreation Area, on the southern end of the Big Dry Arm to the east, are unusable.
But John Daggett, the Corps' operations project manager at Fort Peck, told the Montana Outdoor Radio Show that the lake should rise 4 feet through June before starting to drop in July, provided that spring precipitation is average.
By cutting back flows, and with the Missouri River's spring runoff boosting the lake, Daggett said the reservoir could hit a peak of 2,225.4 in July.