Campers who enjoy Laurance Lake will have to find another fishing hole this summer.
Due to an irrigation project at Clear Creek dam, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the lake, as well as a stretch of surrounding campgrounds, for the 2018 season.
“The closure is already in place and will last all summer and fall of this year. The plan is to re-open the area as usual in 2019,” Laura Pramuk, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, said Thursday.
Work by Middle Fork Irrigation District will bring fixes and tune-ups at the reservoir, located southwest of Parkdale.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Hood River Ranger District explained in a report that occasionally the Middle Fork district — which manages the dam and reservoir — needs to complete monitoring, maintenance and upgrades to ensure irrigation water gets delivered to customers, and to meet dam safety requirements.
Because of that work at Clear Branch dam this summer, the Forest Service has closed the Laurance Lake Reservoir and Kinnikinnick campground for the season. The area surrounding the reservoir will also be closed to dispersed camping. Forest Road 2840 will be closed from the gate above the settling pond to the Pinnacle trailhead.
Laurance Lake has seen lower reservoir levels than recent years, due to the planned construction work.
The irrigation district has started a 30 to 40-foot drawdown (reduced water level) that will last through the summer construction season. The action is necessary to safely do required maintenance to a secondary spillway and the drainage system on the downstream face of Clear Branch dam.
The drawdown might impact water supply for the 2018 irrigation season. It will also affect visitor use and natural resources.
The drawdown will “dramatically” reduce the size of the lake and expose steep, rocky and muddy shoreline posing a safety risk for lake users. Officials also expect that canary reed grass, an invasive species present at the west end of the lake, could spread to the newly exposed shoreline. Crews will reduce the safety and invasive weed risk by preventing the public from entering the area around the lake shore.
The draw down will also result in a much smaller pool of water for fish. This will put stress on the fish that live in the lake, including Bull Trout, a listed species. Fishing can add to the stress to these fish, so Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will not be stocking the reservoir, nor will there be an open fishery in Laurance this year.
The repair of the secondary spillway will also lead to rock hauling along Laurance Lake road from below the spillway to the top of the dam. Heavy equipment will be operating in and on the dam and spillway. For traffic safety, the road’s closed to motorized access.
Forest officials acknowledged the downside in the site closures. “While these closures may pose an inconvenience to our communities that enjoy recreating in this area, we ask for your understanding and patience while this important work takes place,” the Forest Service said in a statement.
Laurance Lake’s closure will not spell an end to the year’s fishing season on federal land, however.
The public can still explore fishing and camping opportunities at other developed campgrounds with fishing lakes on the Mt. Hood National Forest such as Lost Lake, Clear Lake, Rock Creek Reservoir, Timothy Lake, Harriet Lake and Trillium Lake.