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Energy Keepers authorized to keep lake at higher level in May

by Rob McDonald, Energy Keepers Inc.
| May 16, 2024 12:00 AM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) approved another request from Energy Keepers, Inc (EKI) to deviate from the Flood Risk Management Plan by allowing for higher Flathead Lake levels on Memorial Day. This is the second deviation driven by dry conditions.

Each spring, Energy Keepers is required to follow a Flood Risk Management Plan by drawing the lake down 10 feet from maximum levels to 2,883 feet by mid-April, if possible. Full pool is 2,893 feet.

This spring procedure maximizes the water storage potential in Flathead Lake to handle higher stream flows as the winter snows melt. The flood risk plan is dictated by a 1965 Memorandum of Understanding with the USACE.

The formal deviation approval came May 2, and capped the maximum lake height at 2,892 feet by Memorial Day (May 27), which is two feet higher than the usual 2,890 feet on that date.

This action follows the first deviation of the season that occurred March 25, when the USACE approved a plan to cap lake levels at 2,885 feet through April 15, two feet higher than standard practice, to aid in filling the lake.

These early actions are being deployed as a response to dry-season predictions in the forecast, said Brian Lipscomb, CEO of Energy Keepers Inc. “We’re responding to the conditions as provided by current weather trends. Managing circumstances with a more robust snowpack would be preferred, but our team is responsible for managing whatever situation is generated by Mother Nature.”

Forecasters are seeing the dry summer conditions of 2023 lingering into 2024, and those predictions are behind the decision to seek the additional flood-plan changes.

“Our Columbia River Basin Water Management Office is approving additional deviations for Flathead Lake water levels after careful consideration of Energy Keeper’s proposal, with one additional elevation constraint from the original request for flood risk management,” said Kasi Underhill, hydraulics engineer for Northwestern Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In mid-May, the USACE will re-evaluate conditions to determine if any new guidance is required. The typical run-off season ends in June and sometimes into July during colder, wetter years.

To better follow existing lake conditions, head to the Range of Forecast graphic that is updated every Monday afternoon on the Energy Keepers website, www.energykeepersinc.com, and Facebook page.