Idaho Lake Loses 300 Gallons Per Second From Mystery Crack

Lake loses 300 gallons per second from mystery crack (AP, Aug 17, 2011):

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — About 30 feet below the pristine lower Blue Lakes water, where he should still be somewhat visible from the surface, Patrick Trabert couldn’t see a foot in front of him.

Trabert, wearing diving gear, was squeezing two bottles of red water dye into a natural, oval-shaped hole about the size of a Mini Cooper.

That hole is sucking down 40 cubic feet of water — almost 300 gallons — per second, enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 36 minutes.

The city of Twin Falls would like to cut that flow, but others may rely on that water for their own use.

Trabert, diving with his father, city staff engineer Mike Trabert, is working with Brockway Engineering to see how that hole and other cracks in the lake affect water levels — and to see if they can be restricted to keep Twin Falls in compliance with legal agreements without hurting downriver water rights holders.

It all goes back to the thirst of thousands of Twin Falls residents and lawns above the canyon. When the city started pumping water at the Blue Lakes site in the mid-1990s, it pledged to not dramatically impact the water level in the lake owned by the Blue Lakes Country Club.

“When we started pumping, unknown to everyone, we dropped the lake level way down and caused a bit of excitement at the country club,” Mike Trabert said. He added later: “We’re just trying to hold to what we said we’re going to do.”

Hence the six pounds of red dye dumped by the Traberts last week. They wanted to confirm the results of a study done in the ’90s to track where the water goes when it is sucked out of the lake. They planned to conduct a similar experiment on a recently discovered crack that is also draining the lake.

Though the crack is a mystery, the hole is believed to drain into Alpheus Creek, which feeds a trout farm further on. That leads to the city’s second concern — plugging the hole would help make up for Twin Falls’ pumping, but if that act infringes on the trout farm’s water right it could lead to even greater issues.

The Traberts say the pull of the hole starts at a certain threshold: they once watched a crawdad disappear when it moved just a little too close. When some of the dye floated to the surface and obscured the younger Trabert’s vision, it floated over the hole and disappeared in mere moments.

“It was pretty ominous,” a mostly submerged Patrick Trabert yelled to project supervisor Charles E. Brockway, of Brockway Engineers, who watched the work from shore.

Brockway posted dye monitors at every place the lake might drain: the two springs that feed into Alpheus Creek and the creek-fed canal that flows to the trout farm. They also posted dye-absorbing packets in the Snake River. Every bit of information will help in the search for a long-term fix.

“Water supply is important to the city and the lake is important to the country club and we just want to preserve the aesthetics of it,” Brockway said.

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