Goodbye fishing at Alamo Lake – at least for a while

Despite receiving 178 comments, most of which were opposed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dropping the water level at Alamo Lake by 10 vertical feet.

Photo by Don Martin

Despite receiving 178 comments, most of which were opposed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dropping the water level at Alamo Lake by 10 vertical feet.

As you read this story there has been up to 1,750 cubic feet per second of valuable water being sent down the Bill Williams River channel toward Lake Havasu. By tomorrow night, up to 5,000 CFS of valuable water will be let out of this giant man-made flood control reservoir.

The planned rapid drop of water at Alamo Lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was given the green light Friday by two different judges in Phoenix after the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and the folks who operate the Central Arizona Project (CAP) had both filed suits seeking an injunction for the hastily planned water release at Alamo Lake.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has operational control of the lake, proposed in January, “To release waters from Alamo Dam, outside of the typical base flow releases, to facilitate inspection and evaluation of potential needed repairs of the intake sill.”

What was interesting is that as part of the dam operations that inspection is supposed to happen every 5 years, but according to a Corps report, “However, because of operation/safety constraints associated with scheduling an appropriate draw down to facilitate the inspection, regular upper conduit inspections have lapsed. The last conduit inspection was conducted in June 1990. The upper conduit inspection that preceded the 1990 inspection occurred in October 1977.”

Apparently there isn’t any pressing safety issues at the dam with the Corps as it’s been 27 years since the Corps last inspected the drain unit at the dam but now, with the spawn just starting, and the recreational season ready to go into full swing at this desert impoundment, they just had to release all of this water.

There is another reason the Corps sought to do this now. Seems that there were concerns over the impact to several biological resources that are under the protection of the Endangered Species Act that warranted this action. Could the action wait until later in the year? No, said the Corps.

“The Corps determined that summer releases would likely have additional adverse effects to southwestern willow flycatcher, Yuma clapper rail, yellow-billed cuckoo, and the northern Mexican gartersnake that could be avoided by an earlier release.”

OK, so how about a late fall or even winter draw down when there would be less impacts on the recreational aspects including fishing and camping, along with associated financial impacts to those that depend on tourism to stay viable?

Nope, said the Corps.

“The Corps eliminated postponing release beyond September, as this would increase the risk of the lake rising as a result of the late summer monsoon season and making the necessary inspections unfeasible.”

Now mind you until last year, Alamo Lake hadn’t risen much as a result of monsoon or winter rains. Last year was the first time the lake had gone up significantly in many years.

Am I missing something here? I just can’t get myself wrapped around that this water release had to be made right now, with the fishing, camping and desert riding just now getting into full swing.

Another thing. The Corps had originally planned to drop the lake as much as 25 vertical feet. Now they are proposing that the lake be dropped from the current elevation of 1,109.87 to 1,100. That’s still an almost 10 vertical feet draw down that will destroy the nests of who knows how many largemouth bass and crappie, which are valuable resources for this lake.

The Corps said they got 178 comments from groups and or individuals during the one-month comment period they had for the public to weigh in on this. I was told that most of them were in opposition to the plan. Considering the amount of water that will be lost from this impoundment it just seems to be a huge waste of a resource.

So much for constituency input.

Anyway, I had planned to take my son and two grandsons from Oklahoma to Alamo Lake next weekend, but that isn’t going to happen now. Nope, only one boat ramp will be open and there will be a muddy and slippery 10-foot bank all around the lake.

Things might rebound at Alamo Lake later this summer, but by then the temperatures will be well over 100 degrees during the day, which doesn’t make it a very attractive place to fish or camp.