Because of very low flow in the Bear River, the Bear River Compact Commission has declared a water emergency in the central division of the river out of Bear Lake.
Affecting parts of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, the declaration will result in regulation of the river across state lines, according to Carly Burton, a hydrologist for Utah Power, which regulates the Bear River system for power generation, irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife and for flood control purposes.The impact of low water supplies, he said, will be on irrigation interests in Box Elder and Cache counties and recreation interests in northern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.
"Unless there is an abnormally high snowpack from the (winter of 1994-95), storage water allocations out of Bear Lake for irrigation purposes may be severely restricted," Burton said.
He said the level of Bear Lake will decrease again this summer because of high demands throughout the irrigation season. Utah Power has requested all irrigators throughout the Bear River Basin who receive Bear Lake storage water under contract to conserve as much water as possible, Burton said.
Warm temperatures and below-average precipitation during April and May, together with below-average snowpack conditions have resulted in much-below-average runoff throughout the basin. The flow of Bear River water into Bear Lake for April and May was equal to about 26,000 acre-feet of water - only 29 percent of average, Burton said.
He said the Soil Conservation Service forecast for Bear River at Stewart Dam in Bear Lake County for the period that began in April and extends through July is for 175,000 acre-feet of water, which is 59 percent of normal. However, actual water runoff into the lake and the river is expected to be only 26,000 acre-feet or about 12 percent of normal.
Bear Lake storage releases began May 11. The lake level peaked May 13 at 5,911.62 feet above sea level or 600,000 acre-feet of water, which is 0.62 of a foot higher than last year but still only 42 per of capacity, Burton said.
He said there is good news for boaters because the Utah marina, on the west side of the lake just south of the Utah-Idaho border, will be completed by August 1.