GARDEN CITY – Residents here are concerned that Bear Lake water levels could drop below the 2001 recorded low this season due to lack of rain, limited snowpack, evaporation and water being pumped into the Bear River..
The usual run-off from streams and rivers into Bear Lake did not happen this year, according to Claudia Cottle of Bear Lake Watch.
“No more watching for the snowpack. The runoff was a no-show,” she said in the organization’s newsletter. “What little there was went straight into the super dry soils of the upper drainage.”
The question is whether water levels this year will meet or exceed the record lows of 2001. That year was the beginning of a drought that brought Bear Lake to near record lows.
The Bear Lake State Park website said the water level is at 5916.45’ as of Friday June 4. The lake is considered full at 5923.65’.
The Lifton pumping station began moving lake water into the Bear River about May 1. Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) hydrologists expected the runoff this year to be extremely poor, replicating historic lows.
The pumping facility, located in Idaho at the north end of the lake, moves as much as 15,000 gallons per second in to canals that feed the Bear River. The river is the lifeblood of many farmers and ranchers. Its head waters in Utah bring water through Wyoming and Idaho only to empty into the Great Salt Lake 350 miles away..
The water pumped into the Bear River has a huge socioeconomic impact on the entire 14 counties that make up the Bear River Watershed Conservation area. The three states could run out of water without the Lifton pumps effecting hydroelectric plants that generate power for Utah and Idaho.
“The lake elevation is lower than last year at this time,” said Kylen Hardman, a Utah Department of Natural Resources park ranger. “There is definitely more beach and shoreline than last year.”
But she said there is still plenty of water to play in at the lake.
DNR officials advise that the Bear Lake marina and the Rendezvous, First Point, Cisco, Rainbow Cove and South Eden beach areas are all open. The North Eden campground is closed due to construction upgrades and the Rest Stop just below Rendezvous Beach is still under construction.
Adding to local concerns about water levels, a real estate trust out of Detroit is proposing a 500-site RV park on 110 acers of land not far from Pickleville Playhouse. That development by Sun Communities would be located in the fields west of State Road 30 in the southwestern corner of Hodges Road. So far, no land has been purchased and the proposal has not been presented to the Garden City Planning Commission.
But a number of local residents are already expressing concerns about the water and sewer requirements of such a development, along with doubts that the area’s current infrastructure could handle those needs.
Despite the scares of low water and the possibility of a huge development coming to the area, people are still flocking to the Caribbean of the West to recreate and enjoy the blue clear water there.
Troy Blauer, a retired Logan High School history teacher, recently came into shore at Cisco Beach with a 2.5-pound lake trout. His small aluminum boat powered with an electric trolling motor was all he needed to catch fish in the emerald waters of the lake.
“It looks like we have 30 to 40 feet more beach than we had than we had in April,” he said. “The water is low, but I still like coming here to fish.”
Prior to retiring, Blauer worked as a Park Ranger at Bear Lake during the summers while he was teaching school.
Ryan Durrant from Salt Lake City brought his family up to play on the Garden City Park & Beach. Some of the Durrants took to jet skis, some played in the sand and others sat in folding chairs to enjoy the scenery.
Despite concerns about the lake levels and development, the blue waters of Bear Lake continue to attract hordes of summer visitors.