An official from the bureau that oversees the reservoir west of Havre said the reservoir has been full since April.
But Fresno Reservoir should be able to keep snowmelt from causing serious flooding downstream on the Milk River, Chuck Heinje of the Bureau of Reclamation said this morning.
“If we can just keep some cool temperatures for a couple of weeks and get the (precipitation) to stop coming, maybe we can get things to drain out and get some more room in the channels, ” Heinje said.
Water has been going over the spillway at Fresno Dam since April, with more coming into the irrigation and flood control reservoir than is flowing out.
Heinje said about 3,000 cubic-feet-per-second is flowing out, with about 4,000 cfs coming in.
That should drop sharply in the next few days. Heinje said gauging stations upstream are reading closer to 1,200 cfs.
The last three surges in the amount of the water in the river have come due to rainfall in Canada, he said. The Bureau has not been releasing any additional water, trying to minimize the releases to help with flooding downstream.
“We’ve been holding back as much as we could, letting the spillway do what it’s designed to do, ” Heinje said.
The Bureau also has been holding back from diverting any water from the St. Mary River to the Milk through the St. Mary Diversion — that has set a new record.
“We’ve never been this late before, ” Heinje said.
The Milk River system is in better shape than most river systems as far as expected snowmelt increasing levels. Heinje said much of the Milk’s snowmelt comes from lower elevations, and most of that already has melted.
Hienje said, barring large amounts of additional rain, the system should be able to handle the additional water from remaining snowmelt.
“It will work its way through, ” he said.
Due to the high water levels coming from the Milk’s tributaries, Beaver Creek and Big Sandy Creek, along with the rainwater coming down the river itself, the Bureau has not been able to release water downstream so far. If the level of the Milk River drops enough, Heinje said, some additional water could be released to increase storage in the reservoir.
“If we get the chance to evacuate some, we’ll take the opportunity, but we have to wait until there is an opportunity, ” he said.