Cumberland Times-News

January 14, 2013

North Branch running high due to dam water releases

Snow melt prompts action at Jennings Randolph, Savage

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Large amounts of water being released in recent days from Jennings Randolph and Savage River dams are routine, according to Curtis Dalpra of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

At midday Monday, 1,940 cubic feet of water per second was coming from Jennings Randolph. At noon Saturday, the release there was a more typical 500 cfs.

Also Monday, 1,040 cfs was moving downstream from the Savage River Dam, 10 times the usual flow for this time of year.

“The releases are because of the precipitation and snow melt running into the reservoirs,” Dalpra said Monday morning.

“The (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers) is trying to maintain a certain level in the reservoirs that is according to the storage plan.”

The flow of the North Branch of the Potomac River at Kitzmiller, upstream of Jennings Randolph Dam, was roaring at 2,030 cfs Monday, putting 90 cfs more into the reservoir than what was being released.

“It is a completely normal operation of the dams,” Dalpra added.

The combined flows emanating from the two reservoirs created a reading of 3,100 cfs at the Luke gauge operated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Temperatures in recent days, reaching as high as the low 60s, have hastened the melting of snows that covered Western Maryland in late December.

Sgt. Brian Albert of the Maryland Natural Resources Police said those who recreate or otherwise find themselves near or on cold, high river water need to be cautious.

“Personal flotation devices are required of boaters on the river at this time of year,” Albert said. “We know we have waterfowl hunters on rivers now. It’s important to tell someone ahead of time where you will be on the river.”

Albert said there was concern this past weekend about a waterfowl hunter possibly being missing in Washington County on the Potomac River.

“Eventually he called a relative and told them his boat motor had run out of gas,” Albert said.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.