Plenty of snow, but where’s the water? - Low reservoir levels leave boat ramps high and dry

Skagit Valley Herald

CONCRETE — Blame the late spring for taking away some of the Memorial Day fun.

Water that’s usually in Baker Lake by this time of year is still in snow form in the Cascades, leaving the lake about 20 feet below its normal level for this time of year. That means at least three of the lake’s five boat ramps will be out of commission this holiday weekend.

The Upper Baker Dam ramp near Kulshan Campground may be the only boat ramp in operation this weekend. There’s a chance the U.S. Forest Service ramp at Horseshoe Cove Campground could be open as well, depending on how much water finds its way into the lake over the next few days.

The ramps at Shannon Creek Campground, Panorama Point Campground and Baker Lake Resort have been left high and dry.

Baker Lake isn’t the only lake lacking water. Reservoir storage across the region — including lakes formed by Seattle City Light’s dams in Whatcom County — was at only 87 percent of average on May 1, and 47 percent of capacity.

The good news is that plenty of stream flow is forecast — for drinking water and power generation — later in the year. The snow pack in the Baker River basin was at 121 percent of normal on May 1. The Skagit River basin’s snowpack was at 129 percent of normal.

That means there’s plenty of water in the upper Cascades — it’s just all still snow.

Baker Lake is the upper of two lakes formed on the Baker River by Puget Sound Energy’s dams. The lower lake is Lake Shannon, which spills through the Lower Baker Dam just above the river’s confluence with the Skagit River.

The cool weather isn’t the only culprit keeping water out of the lake, according to the utility. More water has been sent out of the lake than normal this month to provide flow for a study on juvenile salmon. That study is conducted by the utility along with state and federal resource agencies and Skagit County’s Indian tribes.

Boaters can get up-to-date information on lake levels and the status of the boat ramps by calling the Baker Recreation Office at 1-888-711-3033.


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