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Bighorn River Flow Update

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Current Conditions tracking for favorable 2020 River Flows

What started out as a slightly below snowpack month in February has changed to a slightly greater than average snowpack month with the entire basin above Yellowtail Dam currently at 106 percent of average. In response, the Bureau of Reclamation increased river flows by 60cfs to keep reservoir drawdown elevations on target with reaching 3617 ft. by the end of March. In April, the reservoir will be drawn down further to accommodate increased inflows.

The end of March elevation target of 3617ft. provides a balance between the need to provide sufficient lake storage space for regulating spring runoff and the need to have the lake high enough to ensure that the lake refills in all but very low runoff or drought years. Over the past years, the Bureau of Reclamation often missed this important target date which, in combination with errored forecasting, has resulted in insufficient reservoir drawdown.

River releases are expected to increase in March as forecasts and current conditions change. The BOR is working to establish the March monthly release, but estimate flows will increase to around 3,750cfs. Implementation of a new basin modeling program, and not overreacting to low inflow forecasts is, thus far, keeping BOR on track and flow conditions for the upcoming season are looking favorable.


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