Water low, but docks still open
Prineville Reservoir State Park staff has been fielding rumors about reservation cancellations and other restrictions due to low water levels.
But so far, those rumors have been unfounded. The park has not canceled any reservations, and they have not closed access to any portion of the reservoir.
"We are not limiting anything," said Park Manager Mike Simonsen.
He went on to note that Prineville Reservoir Resort may be canceling reservations, but he could not confirm whether that is happening or not since they are a private business and not affiliated with the state park. Attempts to reach Prineville Reservoir Resort regarding the status of its reservations were not successful by press deadline.
Although the state park is not limiting any of its options, the water level at the reservoir is lower than it was at this time last year, and Simonsen anticipates some ramp closures may be necessary next month.
"I think in the next few weeks we will probably have to close the Powder House boat ramp and the Jasper Point boat ramp," he said. "But our main campground boat ramp will be useable throughout the summer. We are not restricting any access to the reservoir, just points would be closed down. You could still use it."
Simonsen said that the lower water levels, spurred by a combination of a low winter snowpack and a warmer and drier spring, have caused a decline in people running their ski boats on the reservoir, even though there are no restrictions against it.
"I think people come out here and they see the water level is lower, and they think they can't use it anymore, which isn't true," he said.
In addition to the cancellation and restriction rumors, Simonsen said people have called the park having heard that the reservoir is getting drained.
"That is not happening either," he said in response. "I'm not quite sure where those rumors are coming from."
According to Ochoco Irrigation District Manager Russ Rhoden, the reservoir level is currently at 94,868 acre-feet or 64 percent of the maximum 148,633 acre-feet. He acknowledges that such levels are not great for early July, but still high enough for typical recreational use. He notes that the current water level closely matches what people encounter on Labor Day Weekend, when boating activity is often heavy.
Rhoden went on to acknowledge that the reservoir levels will continue to decline as the summer moves forward. He points out that Crooked River inflows are about 3 cubic feet per second (cfs) while outflows for irrigation are at 245 cfs.
"That is typical," he said of the inflows. "That is true of any summer, even if it is a great water year."
And while outflows are much higher than inflows, Rhoden pointed out that the district is under curtailment, and irrigation customers did not get a full water allocation this year. By the Labor Day Weekend, Rhoden estimates the reservoir levels will dip to somewhere in the 70,000 acre-foot range.
"We would love to have those great water years every year, but part of the reality of living in the high desert is you are going to have some years where you have to depend on that carryover in the reservoir from the year before to get through," he said. "Hopefully we don't have too many years in a row of it."