FLAMING GORGE, Daggett County — The Bureau of Reclamation opened bypass tubes at Flaming Gorge Dam on Friday, catching some weekend boaters by surprise. The increased outflow caused minor flooding to rural areas downstream. Sections of the Little Hole National Scenic Trail, commonly used by anglers on the riverside, are currently under water. The U.S. Forest Service closed the trail between the Spillway Road and Little Hole on June 5. On May 29, the Bureau listed releases from Flaming Gorge at 814 cubic feet per second. By June 7, that number climbed to 8,444 cfs. That indicates flow into the Green River below the dam is now more than 10 times greater than it was less than two weeks ago.
The bypass tubes allow water to circumvent hydropower generators inside the dam. Combined releases from both the generators and bypass tubes reach an approximate maximum at 8,600 cfs. The increased outflows simulate spring run-off conditions that would have existed prior to the dam’s construction. The goal, according to a news release, is to reach combined flows at or above 18,600 cfs below the confluence of the Green and the Yampa rivers in Dinosaur National Monument.
Lake Powell also stands to benefit. Even before the bypass tubes opened at Flaming Gorge, Lake Powell was rising roughly a foot per day. The Bureau’s website currently says the elevated “releases will remain at bypass capacity until further notice.”