If you are an angler that likes to fish at Alamo Lake as much as I do, you will want to get on the phone and call your elected representatives about a proposal being brought forward by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
And you’ll need to write a letter or send an email.
I just finished reading a 60-plus page document entitled “Alamo Dam Flushing Flow Release Draft Environmental Assessment,” and it looks like the Corps of Engineers wants to drop the lake level a significant amount in the next six weeks.
What does that mean for anglers and other recreational users of this lake? It means that the annual spawn for most of the lake’s fish this year will be lost.
History of Alamo Lake
Alamo Lake was built in 1967. It is an earth-filled structure location on the Bill Williams watershed about 36 miles from Wenden. The northern shore of the lake is on the southern boundary of Mohave County.
The lake at high water mark has a capacity of 18,377.74 acres.
Due to persistent droughts, this premier desert lake is nowhere near that level. Right now the lake level is at 3,500 acres and is at an elevation of 1,110 feet.
According to the Corps of Engineers, “The project’s initial authorization included flood control, and other purposes, such as hydropower generation, water conservation and supply, and recreation.”
Keep that last word in mind. Recreation. I would guess that recreation would include fishing.
Why does the Corps want to lower the lake?
The next question is why does the Corps want to drop the lake level?
The answer in the document spells it out.
The project, according to the Corps document is designed to “Remove accumulated sediment (16 cubic yards) from the sill to ensure all structures are visible by the dive inspection team” and “Lower the WSE (water surface elevation), reducing the depth of the required dive and increasing diver safety.”
The sill is a large channel at the bottom of the dam where the water flows through the dam and into the Bill Williams River below the dam.
In the Corps documents they say they would ideally lower the lake to 1,085 elevation to allow divers to safely operate without the use of a chamber. If they do that, it would mean a drop of 35 vertical feet from where the level is right now.
The document states that the maximum release is no more than a rate of 5,000 cubic feet per second and that the draw down would be done in no more than 20 days.
The document states that the draw down will be completed by March 15.
There are other alternatives the Corps said they considered, but decided against implementing them for various reasons.
Recreation and water conservation
Now let’s get back to the “recreation” and “water conservation” aspect of Alamo Lake.
The document states under section 1.3, Related Facilities, that, “Alamo Lake is a public recreation facility currently managed by Arizona State Parks (ASP) and Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). Existing facilities include five campgrounds with a total of 250 camp sites, three boat-launch areas, a privately operated concession and store, and numerous picnic areas. The lake is a popular fishing destination, including hosting several sport fishing tournaments annually.”
Here is where things get interesting.
In section 3.2, Recreational Resources, it states, “A variety of recreational resources exists in the vicinity of Alamo Dam. The shoreline around Alamo Lake is managed as a park by Arizona State Parks (AZSP) as Alamo Lake State Park. Facilities at Alamo State Park include 59 developed campsites and four camping cabins. Sport fishing is also a common recreational activity, with the state park containing several boat launches and hosting sport fishing tournaments throughout the year. The primary sport fishing season on Alamo Lake runs from January through May. However, the recreational resources at Alamo Lake have been established since prior to the existing EIS (environmental impact statement)and WCM, and impacts associated with releases and fluctuating lake levels have been previously evaluated. As such, further discussion of recreational resources will be limited to below the dam where recreational resources have changed since the previous analyes (sic).”
And what about water conservation? According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources Western Arizona is in what is called a moderate drought area. In the last three months the watershed has received little or no precipitation. The Corps document doesn’t detail the amount of water (in gallons) that will be let out of the lake during the projects proposed life. But you can bet it will be huge.
And where will that water go? And since we are in a drought, why wouldn’t you want to conserve all the water you can and keep Alamo Lake at its current level? There is no critical urgency in doing the dam project so why lose all the water that is in storage now?
Here are some more of my questions and concerns. Why don’t the project authors explain to the public the fact that the draw down will result in the lake losing the spawn of all of the sport fish this year. Never mind that the boat-launch ramps will all be out of water.
There will be a huge mud flat area all around the shoreline that will result in vehicles getting stuck, and shoreline anglers being unable to reach the water without trudging through a strip of gooey mud.
Do you think people are going to go there to recreate if they can’t fish? How much money is going to be lost by the local businesses and the Arizona State Parks as a result of the drastic lowering of the lake? Will there be a trickle-down effect on the area’s economy as a result of this project?
Why, knowing there is no emergency with the dam at this time, does the Corps propose the project for this timeline? Why not wait until after the spawn is over? Or do this in November or December when lake visitors are at its lowest?
Another group of outdoor enthusiasts, OHV and UTV operators, are also concerned that this project will interfere with their recreation on the Arizona Peace Trail. Now is a time when the nice weather brings out those who like to ride in the desert and this area receives a lot of visitors at this time.
If you think these are valid questions that need to be answered I urge you to get involved now.
And it will be up to you, the Arizona sportsman, to demand an answer to these and other questions you might have.
This project is on a fast track and the time to get involved is short. You need to contact everyone from the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, to our state and federal legislators.
The Corps will be taking comments until February 10.
You can get your comments in by letter by writing to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Los Angeles District
ATTN: Pam Kostka, CESPL-RGN-L
915 Wilshire Blvd 13th Floor; Los Angeles, CA 90017
Or better yet, email your comments to Pamela.firstname.lastname@example.org.