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Ross Dam

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Subject:   Heavy Rains and Flooding on Upper Skagit River
For Immediate Release:   
10/17/2003  12:00:00 AM
For More Information Contact:
Scott Thomsen  (206) 386-4233

More than seven inches of rain in the past 24 hours has caused Seattle City Light to stop generation and begin holding back water behind its Ross Dam complex on the upper Skagit River.

Jim Ritch, acting Superintendent of City Light, said that the utility stopped generation at 6:00 a.m. today and closed the gates. He said that flows into Ross Lake on Friday morning were nearly 23,000 cubic feet/second (cfs). Normal flows at this time of year are about 1,200 cfs.

“We have room behind the dam and will continue to hold water until we run out of room,” said Ritch.

Ritch said that there is about 14 feet of reservoir space available to contain the effects of this rainstorm and an additional 8 feet if absolutely needed. Ross is considered full at 1,602 feet above sea level, and its level was about 1,586 this morning when City Light began holding water. The reservoir is 22 miles long and extends to just past the Canadian border.

“It’s still raining very hard in the North Cascades and we anticipate more rain,” Ritch said. “The forecast is for this event to moderate toward the first of next week.”

Ritch said that the utility must replace the energy normally generated at the three-dam Skagit complex with higher-cost power purchased from the western market. But by holding back water, City Light has protected the downstream communities from even more severe flooding. “By holding the water in Ross, we’ve kept the river an estimated seven feet below where it would have been,” said Ritch.

The storm has caused severe flooding along the North Cascades Highway 20 that links the City Light company towns Newhalem and Diablo. Those communities are cut off at this time, but emergency preparations normally implemented for snowstorms are in place and all City Light personnel are OK, Ritch said.

City Light heavy equipment crews are currently helping the state Department of Transportation remove debris from the Highway 20 bridge at Diablo.

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