Moapa Valley Progress
Lake Mead National Recreation Area (LMNRA) officials are about to begin the process of updating plans for operations at the lake during periods of low water levels. Public scoping meetings will be held this week to begin to get public input into this process. Additional input will be sought in subsequent public meetings later in the process.
The LMNRA has been operating under a Low Water plan since 2005 because of persistent drought conditions. In 2005, Lake Mead levels were at around 1,147 feet in elevation. The planning document currently comprehends a lake elevation down to 1,050.
But LMNRA officials are looking to be prepared in the event that lake water elevations drop below 1,050. The current planning process would guide operations down to a lake elevation of 950 feet.
There are no projections that indicate the lake will reach that low level in the foreseeable future. The current water level at Lake Mead is at 1,081 feet. Bureau of Reclamation projections over the next 24 months suggest levels could decline to only 1,069 feet.
But park officials are preparing the planning document to ensure continued operation at each of the lake’s access sites at various low elevations.
“Our goal is to maintain services in these areas,” said LMNRA spokeswoman Christie Vanover. “In this process, engineers will be looking at areas designated and studying what can be done to maintain access should the water level drop below current levels in the plan.”
On example is the deep water launch at Echo Bay on the northern end of the lake. This boat ramp is currently fully operational. It is built out to accommodate launching to a lake elevation of 1,077. According to the current planning document, LMNRA officials would continue to extend the ramp should water levels drop as low as 1,050 feet.
“We would do that with pipe matting or concrete planks; and as we have done before, by pouring more concrete,” Vanover said. “But going beyond that 1050 foot threshold, we don’t have planning in place.”
In the upcoming planning process, engineers would look at the underwater topography of that area and determine what can be done to continue access to the water should the lake reach those lower levels, Vanover said.
“It is important to note, that we are not projected to get anywhere near the lowest levels being studied in this new plan document,” Vanover said. “In the foreseeable future we are good. But we are just planning for every possible contingency down the road.”
This week’s scoping meetings are just the beginning of the process. In the scoping portion the Park Service is merely looking for public feedback on whether there is any problem not already considered in moving forward with the plan amendment.
“This stage of the process is a little vague,” Vanover said. “It is just to confirm that the public wants us to move forward in making the plan with the goal of retaining access to the lake. We expect that to be the case.”
Vanover said that more specific information regarding the plan and its direction would be discussed in future meetings. In those meetings, the public would be given the chance, once again, to give input to the planning process.
“We expect the whole planning process to take 12-18 months,” Vanover said. “That means within about 6-9 months, more meetings will be held with more plan specifics.”
This week, two scoping meetings will be held. On Wednesday, October 11, the first will be held from 6-8 pm at the Mohave County Library, Kingman Branch at 3269 North Burbank St. in Kingman, Arizona.
The second meeting will be held on Thursday, 6-8 pm, on Thursday, October 12 at the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility, 300 South Racetrack Road in Henderson, Nevada.
Comments and recommendations regarding the scope of the environmental assessment will be accepted through Nov. 5. They may be submitted by U.S. Mail to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Compliance Office, 601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005 or online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/.