SALT LAKE CITY — A trio of northern Utah reservoirs fed by the Weber and Ogden rivers are spilling, and most reservoirs in the state will fill over the next few days as more snow comes off the mountains.
"East Canyon and Echo are spilling as is Lost Creek. Causey Reservoir is a question mark," said Gary Henrie, a civil engineer and hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Provo-area office.
Pineview lacks a spillway but instead uses gates to release water. Henrie said they will likely crack the gate at Pineview to release water as it sits at 100 percent of capacity.
Some of the reservoirs are in the midst of receiving peak runoff flows, while others are just finishing up, Henrie said.
The bureau and reservoir managers feel they hit a safe space as far as the river flows go so that the reservoirs can be topped off for storage purposes.
"These are the years we really like," said Wayne Pullan, manager of the bureau's Provo-area office. "The system we put together relies on Mother Nature's occasional generosity. We have designed our dams for the most part for carryover storage so we can take a good year and make sure we have enough water for the next few years."
When a dam spills, it is a breathtaking site but can be alarming to some people, spokesman Marlon Duke said.
"People think it is really neat or they get concerned," Duke said. "But it is important people understand that spillways are part of the engineering design of the dam."
Henrie said spillways are safe way to control the elevation of the reservoir. As the water level rises, it crests the lip of the dam and flows over.
"Using the spillway is completely normal part of the operation of the dams," he said.
This year's generous water year will even fill Scofield Reservoir, which had dwindled to 35 percent of capacity by October of last year.
Lake Powell, too, is slowly coming up and will fill some more, added Cory Angeroth, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Utah Science Center.
The lake sits at an elevation of 3,591.7 feet compared to 3,612 feet this time last year.
"Due to the larger snowpack, and cooler spring, the Lake Powell elevation is coming up right now, where last year it was starting to drop," Angeroth said.
The lake has come up 23 feet from its lowest elevation this year, he said. The National Park Service Tuesday cautioned that with the water rising 6 to 15 inches a day, boaters must make sure vehicles or other gear are far enough away from the shore to avoid rising waters while they are on the lake.
Both the bureau and the geological survey recently partnered together for the first ever 3D mapping and 3D LiDar scanning at Lake Powell to chart its bottom and understand its sedimentation deposits.17 comments on this story
When the data is released later this year, it will be the first time the water world has a full understanding of the reservoir's true capacity, which covers 162,000 surface acres and is fed by the Colorado River.
The bureau, too, is urging people to exercise caution while they are out on the reservoirs and recreating near the rivers as the summer heats up.
"We just remind people to please be careful. The shorelines are going to be different at the reservoirs," Duke said. "There will be obstacles, rocks. The rivers are still running high and fast."