Newspaper Archive of
Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
May 8, 1996     Hells Canyon Journal
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May 8, 1996

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0 Page 10 Hells Canyon Journal May 8, 1996 Water Level in Brownlee Reservoir Hurts Local Businesses by David Baker of the Hells Canyon Journal Business people in Rich- land, Oregon, have been es- pecially hard hit by low water levels in Brownlee Reservoir, which have occurred for the past several years at the peak of the fishing-tourist season. Following are comments of three business owners in Richland. Flo Nedrow Flip's Restaurant "Business has been down for the last three years since they started dumping the water to flush the fish. It has hurt all the businesses in town -- it's really knocked us in the head. Outsiders com- ing in get upset because there's no water, and they've come so far. I just had a couple from Brookings in here awhile ago --- they wanted to know what happened to the water -- they had come all that way, and there was no place to get a boat in." "They don't ask us any- thing before they draw the water down. A bunch ofp ple from here and Baker and Portland got together one year and talked to the gover- nor, and it helped a little bit, but that's the only year it did help. Idaho Power tells us it's the Corps of Engineers.They say they've done a lot of it to prepare for run-off, but they never know for sure how much run-offthey're going to have. I've heard people from Idaho ask why they're letting all our water out here when over there they're causing flooding by backing it up and holding it. So, who knows what they're doing? Mary Jane Ward Ice Hut II "One good weekend can make my business for the month. For the last two years, in three day's time, on a holi- day weekend, I will do almost a whole month's worth of in- come. This year we're not go- ing to have the water for it. So far this year we've had at least three or four bass tournaments cancel out at the motel here. And they e can- celed at the restaurants, which are supposed to be cooking for them. I would open up at 3:30 a.m. and get them ice and other supplies, and they're fiof. m"ifig. These groups are out of Boise, Portland different places. There's one scheduled for May llth from La Grande, but they were assuming the wa- ter was supposed to start com- ing up this past weekend, and it's not it's still dropping. "When I first came here and worked the store in the late 80's and early 90's we didn't have this problem with the water. Richland was re- allypopular. But since they've started dropping the water, first to flush fish, or flood con- trol whatever reason they give, and they keep changing the reason -- the more they lower it. like that, it's killing the small communities." "The first time I can re- member we've ever had a meeting for someone to tell us what was happening with the water was on March 20th -- they had a meeting over here at the grange hall. There were representatives from Idaho Power, Fish & Game, Baker County Court,and they claimed they were going to be dropping the water down through April 27th, for flood control. Then it was supposed to be rising back up. In the meantime, Idaho Power has apparently decided to work on Woodhead Park boat ramp. They could have been doing it already, but they waited un- til it got to its full low point to start doing it, and now it's going to keep it low until May 10th, frbm what someone told me last night. I heard this from two people who work for Idaho Power. They said the work on the ramp would take about ten to twelve days from last Wednesday or Thursday [April 24-25] before they would get their work done and start filling the reservoir again. They said nobody will really say, but that's what they expected. "The first year I opened the Ice Hut, I did OK I maintained the business and I made some money. Last year I didn't always make enough money to pay the rent and utilities -- I had to help sup- port the Ice Hut with another job. This year, in April, I made just $63. I can't keep going on like this." Thorny Hampton ........ Post Store and Motel "Every business in Rich- land" is taking a hit -- it's dev ta ng. Thdy' e been lowering thereservoir every Photo by David Baker HIGH AND DRY --- Boat ramp and wooden dock at Hewitt Park, outside of Richland, are a long way from the waters of Brownlee Reservoir., year for the past several years for the salmon and steelhead flush, but supposedly this year doesn't have anything to do with that --- this year it's to get ready for the tre- mendous run-off which will be comingout of Idaho. That's what they claim it's for. "Normally they don't draw it down so much you can't put a boat in, for those fish flushes. What's devastating this year is two months when you can't put a boat in here. It's cost us thousands of dol- lars. We have daily motel can- cellations like the week- end of May 10 & 11 we had scheduled the Boise Cascade Bass Tournament, and all the rooms would have been full, but now it's nothing. Last year, with the fish flushes, I would estimate it cost us be- tween 30% and 40% of our business for the year. And this year -- May is our big- gest month of the year -- and I'd say 75% of our tourist dol- lars for May are gone. "There have been meetings before this year it was to inform us it wasn't for'the fish flush supposedly the Army Corps of Engineers needs the drawdown for the runoff that's going to come out of Idaho and Montana. It doesn't appear there's any attempt to coordinate the water drop with the tourist season." Phil Simonski Fishing Guide Phil Sirnonski of Baker City, who works as a fishing Photo by David Baker DRY DOCK -- the end of the dock in the photo above. guide in this area, questioned the Army Corps of Engineers on several points regarding low water levels. He said the Corps claimed the drawdown this year is to accommodate unusually heavy snowpack in " the Wyoming Tetons and the mountains in Idaho, which they claim is 137 per cent above normal. Simonski said that public records from a weekly "TMT" meeting of various agencies including Bonneville Power Adminis- tration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others, show the snowpack in the area mentioned at just 11 percent above normal. Simonski added that the Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to draw the water level in Brownlee Reservoir down as much as 99 feet, under a li- censing agreement with Idaho Power. Open Seven Days a Week Tom & Helod Huff Hain St. Richland u 0 893-61ZS