The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing water flow rates from its Willamette Valley dams to regain full flood storage capacity in its reservoirs after recent rain events. During the increased flows the Willamette River at Harrisburg is forecasted to exceed bank full in the next few days.
"Rivers have receded following last week's storms, so now we can release the water we had stored," said Erik Petersen, operations manager for the Willamette Valley Project. "This is part of our normal operations so we can prepare for future rain events."
During the Willamette River Basin flood control season (mid-November through January), the Corps operates all of its 13 dams and reservoirs to capture water and maintain storage space to reduce the risk of flooding downstream. This system controls 27 percent of the total Willamette River basin drainage area by the time the river reaches Portland. Their operation takes the peaks off high flow events. Since completion of the dams, they have cumulatively prevented over $20 billion in flood damages, including more than $2 billion during the flood event of 1996, according to the Corps.
The Corps operates 13 dam and reservoir projects in the Willamette River drainage system. Each dam contributes to a water resource management system that provides flood damage reduction, power generation, irrigation, water quality improvement, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation on the Willamette River and many of its tributaries.
Residents can track reservoir storage levels, as well as inflows and releases at Willamette Valley dams by visiting the reservoir levels section at the Portland District web site, www.nwp.usace.army.mil