LEAVENWORTH — If it seems like Icicle Creek has a higher flow than normal for a drought year, you’d be right.
The Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation District decided this year to test plans for releasing more water for its reservoirs it controls in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, said Tony Jantzer, Icicle and Peshastin Irrigation District manager. The irrigation district is part of a workgroup that is attempting to increase flows in Icicle Creek to improve fish habitat and provide more water for the city of Leavenworth.
During droughts Icicle Creek usually drops to between 15 to 20 cubic feet per second (cfs), Jantzer said. The irrigation district has been attempting to keep flows to above 40 cfs. The stream is above 75 cfs right now, according to the state Department of Ecology.
“In the 2015 drought we ended up with over 1,000 acre feet of water left in Square Lake that we didn’t use,” he said. “We thought that it would have been a lot better for everybody if we released that water out of Square Lake and had it go down stream for instream flows.”
It was a little difficult to try and do it this year because of continued work on Eightmile Lake Dam, Jantzer said. The irrigation district wasn’t allowed to fill the lake to full capacity, because the dam is damaged. Snow Lake was also about 1,000 acre feet short of full this year.
“So we started that out pretty aggressively this year,” he said. “It is a little scary for me because I’ve got to calculate out how much water I got in the lakes and not run out before my irrigation season gets over.”
The irrigation district and the Icicle Creek Workgroup also have other plans to increase flows in the creek using the reservoirs, including building automated gates to manage flows and repairing Eightmile Lake Dam. The eventual goal is to maintain flows of a minimum of 100 cfs during normal years and 60 cfs during droughts.
The plans completed a final environmental review in January, but there is still some concern about the impact of building in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from environmental groups. The irrigation district is in talks with the U.S. Forest Service to get a permit to repair Eightmile Lake Dam.