Graph updated by Bob GibsonOur good friend Bob Gibson over at FWP sent along this excellent graph he modified from USGS data. The blue line indicates the flows as they occurred last week. Bob overlayed the red line which indicates the planned releases that were developed by FWP and Reclamation. There’s lots to marvel and speculate about, that’s for sure. That measured discharge at just under 300cfs is scary. While I’m sure there’s no connection, didn’t this happen about the same time those Northwest pilots were overflying Minneapolis?The word is that Reclamation has formed an investigative team and will release a preliminary report soon.

Baucus Press Release

BAUCUS DEMANDS INVESTIGATION OVER BIGHORN RIVER MISMANAGEMENTSenator Wants Answers for Bureau of Reclamations Continual Failings (Washington, D.C.) Citing a pattern of disregard, Montanas senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus today demanded a high-level investigation into Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) management of the Bighorn River and Yellowtail Dam. In a firmly worded letter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for Department of the Interior, Baucus laid out case after case of major blunders by the Bureau, including two recent incidents that severely damaged fish numbers in the Bighorn River. The OIG is an independent, investigative arm of the federal government. It is clear that better coordination on the entire length of the system would have prevented many of the impacts of these damaging events. I would like your office to conduct an investigation into the overall management of the Bighorn River System, specifically investigating the operation of the Yellowtail Dam in coordination with all the dams on the river, Baucus wrote to Mary Kendall, the acting OIG for the Department of Interior. Baucus warned further bungled operations could permanently damage the river. The Bighorn is a prize for Montana; and for inept bureaucrats to put it at risk is unacceptable at best and downright reckless at worst, Baucus said. Montanans demand answers for these continual failings and we are going to get them. We cannot afford another big mistake. Baucus has been a stalwart ally of the Bighorn River, continually fighting to make sure its protected. He has been an outspoken critic of the BORs management of Yellowtail Dam and has led the charge to increase flows in the river. According to the Department of the Interior, The Office of the Inspector General is designed to promote excellence, integrity and accountability in the programs, operations, and management of the Department of the Interior. Click here for the full text of Senator Baucus letter to OIG.

Enough is enough

Photo by Nick PentasPhoto by Doug HaackeThe first photo speaks for itself. This was a common occurence down the entire river. Most fish had been stranded by the inexplicable bump to 4,400cfs. The second photo is particularly interesting. It was taken at the top of the first island. That large white object in the background is a buoy from the Afterbay lake. I’m no detective, but I believe for that buoy to have gotten to its resting place, it would’ve had to have been sucked through the sluice gate. The fact its resting at a much higher elevation tells me it happened during some seriously high flows. Sadly, our premonition that a pattern of disregard is emerging has come true. Enough is enough.Stay tuned.

Oops! So much for a gradual drawdown…

followed byRiver releases to the Bighorn River suddenly and unexpectedly jumped this afternoon, surprising local and regional anglers, guides and outfitters. Just two days ago, the Bureau of Reclamation had initiated a plan to gradually lower the Afterbay lake elevation and decrease river releases to perform some routine maintenance. Reclamation carefully planned the drawdown with Fish, Wildlife and Parks to minimize the impact on the river fishery, which had it tough this year with low flows prior to spring, extremely high flows during runoff, and an equipment malfunction which suddenly dropped flow to almost 1,000cfs. Regardless, this planning seems to be all in vain, as flows shot up from 2,000cfs to well over 4,200cfs this afternoon.Initially, Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommended discontinuing plans to complete the Afterbay maintenance, as dropping flows from 4,400cfs to 400cfs over the course of 12 to 15 hours would severely hurt the fishery. This matter was settled when dam operators suddenly dropped flows from 4,400cfs to under 800cfs. At that point, any damage to the fishery had been done.Latest word is that maintenance will proceed as scheduled. Photo by Zoe Opie

Updated flow reduction schedule

Here’s the latest flow reduction schedule:Oct 17 0700: 3,300cfs to 2,900cfsOct 18 0700: 2,900cfs to 2,500cfsOct 19 0700: 2,500cfs to 2,250cfsOct 20 0700: 2,250cfs to 2,000cfsOct 20 1900: 2,000cfs to 1,750cfsOct 20 2000: 1,750cfs to 1,500cfsOct 20 2100: -100cfs per hour to 400cfsOct 21 0700: 400cfsOct 21 ~1100: Back to 3,300cfs over 3 hours

An unexpected bump in releases

This came in late today from Reclamation:Due to the cooler weather and shorter days, the heavy algae growth in the Bighorn River is beginning to decrease significantly. Power generation indicates actual releases to the Bighorn River are higher than anticipated. To adjust for the variation of flows, the following operation change is required at Yellowtail Dam and Powerplant applying a new shift of -1.47 to the river gage height.Starting tomorrow at 2pm, releases will be increased from 2,800cfs to 3,300cfs.

Flow reduction schedule

Here is the flow reduction schedule required for routine inspection of the accretions in to the Afterbay.Please keep in mind these values are subject to change. For example, flows have already been reduced to 2,800cfs.Just prior to the event, an updated schedule will be published. Gage Flow Date Time Height CFS Oct-16 7:00 62.18 2,950 Oct-17 7:00 62.03 2,750 Oct-18 7:00 61.83 2,500 Oct-19 7:00 61.63 2,250 Oct-20 7:00 61.41 2,000 19:00 61.17 1,750 20:00 60.90 1,500 21:00 60.79 1,400 22:00 60.68 1,300 23:00 60.55 1,200 Oct-21 0:00 60.42 1,100 1:00 60.28 1,000 2:00 60.14 900 3:00 59.99 800 4:00 59.83 700 5:00 59.65 600 6:00 59.46 500 7:00 59.25 400 8:00 59.25 400 9:00 59.25 400 10:00 59.25 400 11:00 59.25 400 12:00 59.25 400 12:30 59.75 650 13:00 60.15 900 13:30 60.55 1,200 14:00 60.95 1,550 14:30 61.35 1,935 15:00 61.75 2,400 15:30 62.18 2,950