I contacted the Corps of Engineers about their generating policies on Mountain Fork River. I wanted to know why they generate on weekends. Generating impacts tourists and float businesses in Beavers Bend. Their timely response is below.
Check the links below before planning a float trip on Mountain Fork River.
Thank you for reaching out to us.
In most cases, the water manager provides a minimum and maximum release a week in advance, and SWPA plans their releases 2-3 days in advance based on power demands. SWPA may change releases on the day-of, if power demand shifts or if another project needs to be shut down and cannot produce hydropower. Also, we may alter releases day-of if there is downstream flooding.
Typically power demand on weekends is low, which is why there aren’t releases as often during weekends. When releases are done during weekends, particularly on holiday weekends, it is usually because Broken Bow is flooded. This can be checked on our website (http://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/lowerred.basinpie.fp.html). If the project is in the flood pool, particularly if it’s over 5% and rain is expected the following week, we have to make releases for public safety.
One thing that confuses people is that we aren’t allowed to make “pre-releases,” meaning I can’t drop Broken Bow ahead of time because there is rain in the forecast. If I were to release ahead of time and then the rain fell slightly downstream I could contribute to flooding there. Another confusing thing is that sometimes we will have releases shut down while it’s raining and the pool is in flood stage. Typically that’s because projects downstream are flooding and we don’t want to contribute to further damage/danger there so we wait to release until downstream is done flooding.
Another reason we might make weekend releases is if there is a Swift Water Rescue Training or other special ops (like last weekend). These aren’t typically done on holiday weekends, but we do work with the firefighters’ schedule. Public safety, including preventing drowning, typically takes priority over canoeing or other recreational activity requiring low flow.
SWPA’s hydro schedule for weekends come out Friday and that they are tentative and subject to change due to power demands or changing flood risk conditions.
We understand that businesses and livelihoods are affected by releases, so please know that SWPA and the water manager do try to plan around busy days, but also keep in mind that Broken Bow was created for 1) flood control, 2) hydropower 3) water supply, as well as recreation and wildlife, so those first 3 purposes must be balanced, and may at any given point take priority.
Please feel free to reach back out to us if you have any further questions.
Public Affairs Specialist