92°F
weather icon Clear

Rising waters: Heavy snow in Colorado expected to increase level at Lake Mead

Lake Mead is projected to be about 18 feet higher than expected due to the recent surge of melting snow into the Colorado River, according to staff at the Bureau of Reclamation.

The surge is the result of an above-average snowfall in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming this past winter. Lake Mead was originally projected to be at 1,068 feet on Jan. 1, 2020.

“In June, with a forecasted inflow into Lake Powell of 125 percent of average, we are now projecting Lake Mead to be at elevation 1,086 on Jan. 1, approximately 18 feet higher,” said Douglas Hendrix, public affairs specialist for the Lower Colorado Region, on behalf of the hydrology staff.

Part of that increase is due to more water coming into Lake Mead from Lake Powell, which is also being affected by the increased runoff from the Upper Colorado River Basin. According to the Lower Colorado Region’s hydrology staff, Lake Powell will be 52 feet higher than expected by Jan. 1.

“The improved hydrology means that a shortage in the lower (Colorado River) basin has been averted for 2020,” Hendrix said. “Since the operation of Lakes Powell and Mead are coordinated under existing operating guidelines, the additional water stored in Lake Powell will help both upper and lower basins in future years.”

Even with this additional water, the lower basin is still prone to drought, especially if extremely dry conditions occur next winter.

“While we were pleased to see the above-average snowpack conditions in the upper basin and the improvement in the inflow forecast, which may lessen the chance of shortage in 2020, we are reminded that one above-average year will not end the ongoing extended drought experienced in the Colorado River Basin, nor is likely to substantially reduce the current risk facing the basin,” Hendrix said. “The risk of reaching a shortage condition … in Lake Mead remains unacceptably high in future years.”

A shortage will occur when the water level falls below 1,075 feet.

Hendrix also said the Bureau of Reclamation is in the process of updating its projections for the next five years based on these improved conditions and the recent implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.

With these new water conditions, the National Park Service has issued alerts and closed some affected trails.

The water in Lake Powell is rising between 6 and 15 inches a day and NPS is urging boaters to be cautious because of large branches, trees and other debris being brought into the lake from the melting snow. Visitors also need to be careful with the rising shoreline and park their vehicles 200 to 300 yards away from the water’s edge so they will not become submerged.

Water levels at Zion National Park have also increased and caused closure of the Narrows Trail. The park service said it is unknown when it will reopen.

There are currently no extra alerts at Lake Mead due to the projected increase in its water level. Christie Vanover, public affairs officer for the lake, said the increased level actually puts the park in a better position because its concrete launch ramps are already in place.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Ethics complaint filed against city attorney

The Nevada Commission on Ethics is investigating a complaint against City Attorney Steve Morris for allegedly violating state law at a City Council meeting in October.

City cuts millions from budget

City Council unanimously approved the final budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year that includes several million dollars in cuts to accommodate expected revenue losses due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Hoover Dam marks 85th anniversary of final concrete pour

On Friday, May 29, Hoover Dam celebrates a unique anniversary. It will have been 85 years since the last of the concrete was poured for the project.

 
Wreath placed to honor veterans

Boulder City Mayor Kiernan McManus joined with Gov. Steve Sisolak to place a wreath honoring veterans during a small, private Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 25, at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Phase Two begins Friday

CARSON CITY — More of Nevada’s daily routines will return Friday, May 29, with limits, as Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday, May 26, night the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including gatherings for church services and the reopening of more businesses, such as bars and health facilities.

Schools continue food distribution, online learning

Despite the school year being over, local students will still be able to pick up meals throughout the summer and participate in online learning activities.

Business Beat: Coffeehouse, bookstore to open in historic building

Three friends with deep ties to Boulder City have joined forces to create DAM Roast House &Browder Bookstore, a new business that will be housed in the town’s oldest commercial building.

City to take possession of airport hangars

After talking in circles for literally hours, City Council finally decided to let 28 airport hangars revert to city ownership when their current leases expire July 2 and directed staff to create new ones.