FLAMING GORGE, Utah — Conversations that have been months in the making are pointing signs toward a release of nearly 500,000 acre feet of water from Flaming Gorge Damn to assist Lake Powell downstream.
“Water is pretty important to what we do," said Woody Bair with Flaming Gorge Resort in Dutch John, which has been a family business for generations. “We’re not quite ready to hit the panic button yet and say that we should jump up and down and hold our breath, but it’s concerning what the long-term effects will be.”
Bair expects the water release to benefit anglers who enjoy the Green River below the dam. But, like others in the area, he is a bit concerned with the future of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir if drought conditions persist or other measures are taken.
“How much water can we let out to really make a difference downstream?" Blair said. "Of course, we care about our neighbors, but we want to make sure we’re protected."
Jerry Taylor, who owns Lucerne Valley Marina just outside of Manila, has been a part of conversations regarding water levels in the Gorge for decades.
“From my viewpoint, we always knew this could happen," said Taylor, who has recently increased the number of boat slips at Lucerne Valley Marina. “We’ve been enjoying a lot of years of high water at Flaming Gorge, and now we’re looking at a different operation here.”
Taylor is most concerned about the fisheries and their spawning habits but doesn't expect a negative impact on businesses this upcoming year. He also says local businesses have been having record years for visitation over the past two years during the pandemic.
“We’re going to end up at a level, about where we were in '02, which was the last drawdown we had," he said. “You need to come see it; we don’t know what the future's going to hold for all of us.”
Taylor added that marinas may have to shift docks depending on the water level, and boaters may experience new obstacles while on the water.
Already fully booked for the upcoming summer, the Red Canyon Lodge is a popular spot for anglers and repeat visitors over the years.
"Besides anglers, we are a huge destination for the Wasatch front," said Mark Wilson, who has owned the Red Canyon Lodge since 1991. “We’re kind of proud that our closest stoplight is 40 miles away, our traffic is wildlife, and we’re not overrun, and we love that and we want visitors to know that.”