Ken’s Lake water status warrants ‘critical action,’ GWSSA officials say
by Jeff Richards
contributing writer
Aug 02, 2012 | 2644 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
kens lake
State and local officials say they have no resources to clean up the dead fish at Ken’s Lake so the carcasses will be left to rot in place.
State and local officials say they have no resources to clean up the dead fish at Ken’s Lake so the carcasses will be left to rot in place.
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Low water levels in Ken’s Lake have prompted local water officials to draft a critical water year action plan for the reservoir.

According to Mark Sovine, manager of the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency, the tentative plan covers several aspects, including supplementing the irrigation flow with ground water pumps, implementing water use restrictions as needed, and coordinating conservation efforts with other agencies.

The GWSSA board is scheduled to discuss the action plan at its next regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. at the agency’s offices, 3025 E. Spanish Trail Road.

“These actions and others as needed are intended to minimize the effect of limited water supply,” states a preliminary draft copy of the document.

According to GWSSA figures, Ken’s Lake held approximately 649 acre-feet of water on July 23, down from the 1,808 acre-feet recorded on March 30. Irrigation water users have been able to use only 60 percent of their normal allotment this year, following a 40 percent restriction mandated by the GWSSA earlier this spring.

Nevertheless, Sovine said that while the Ken’s Lake water level is the lowest it has been since 2009, the water in the reservoir should still last until early September with the current usage restrictions in place.

According to GWSSA figures, the volume of water in the lake has dropped to as low as 200 acre-feet historically, most recently in 2009.

Very little water is currently flowing into the lake, although some additional inflow has been diverted from Mill Creek, he said. That is typically done to satisfy the water rights assignments of about 150 Moab Irrigation Company water users. According to the action plan document, up to 4,000 acre-feet of water may be diverted into Ken’s Lake from Mill Creek each year, although in low water years such as this year that much water simply is not available, hence the need for usage restrictions, Sovine said.

As for a recent “fish kill,” that has left hundreds of dead trout along the lake’s shores and floating in the water, Sovine and other state and federal officials say there doesn’t appear be any cause for alarm.

“It’s a water temperature issue, rather than a water level issue,” Sovine said. He noted that the lake contained more than 600 acre-feet of water at the time of the fish kill, which occurred around July 19 or 20. Sovine said he measured the water temperature around that time to be 75 degrees, a level that can be harmful to trout.

Calvin Black, an aquatics biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said that while mass die-offs like the one that occurred at Ken’s Lake are not common, they do sometimes happen in the hot summer months. Trout are particularly susceptible to stress in warm water, Black said.

“They can’t get enough oxygen,” he said, adding that most of the fish that died were likely stocked in the lake within the past year or two.

The lake will be restocked with another batch of catchable trout in the spring, Black said. In the meantime, the bag and possession limit for trout at Ken’s Lake has been doubled from four to eight fish per person per day, according to a bulletin issued from the state DWR on July 18.

The dead trout will simply be left to decay where they are, officials said.

“We do not have resources to clean up or remove the dead fish, nor do I think the DWR has any plans,” Sovine said.

Rock Smith, manager of the Moab Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, said the water in the lake itself and the fish therein don’t fall within the BLM’s jurisdiction. Although the BLM does manage the land surrounding the lake, including adjacent camping areas, there are no planned changes as far as the BLM is concerned, Smith said.

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