American Falls Reservoir Low Capacity

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Updated: 9/11/2013 7:38 pm
Typically the Snake River below the American Falls dam is lined with anglers, but lately the scene is a lot bleaker.

"The reservoir has gotten to such a low level that the fish are being entrained through the dam at a very high rate and so that's why you're seeing fish dead below American Falls reservoir," said David Teuscher, regional fisheries manager.

The lack of fish and fisherman will have an impact on the American Falls economy, anglers typically bring in about 4 million dollars to the town during a good water year versus just 1 million during a drought. Those numbers are dramatic, but fish aren't even the main concern.

American Falls’ Mayor Marc Beitia said, "Recreation is a real plus and this fishery is a real benefit to the city of American Falls but agriculture is probably the main stay of both."

The irrigator’s lack of water is a serious problem, and one without an easy fix. Even though many believe the answer is to bring in water from Jackson Lake, that gamble isn't the safest bet. 

"Obviously the water would help here but then the question needs to be asked if we have a low winter, low snow pack, and the Magic Valley irrigators and a lot of the American Falls irrigators are dependent on the water that's stored in Jackson Lake, if we completely drain Jackson Lake to save the fishery, and we don't get any snow pack this winter, well what does that do to Power County agriculture and agriculture down the valley?" said Mayor Beitia.

It sounds like the fish are getting the short end of the stick, but plans are in place to get things back on track in the future.

"We'll stock the reservoir this fall after the reservoir starts to rebuild, but fishing won't be as good as it has been over the past couple years,” said Teuscher.

With some help from Mother Nature, irrigators and sportsmen are all hoping for better conditions and higher water levels next year.

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