The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its 2013 Francis E. Walter Dam Release Recreation Program, which includes 26 whitewater release dates.

The announcement was made last week at the Mountain Laurel Resort in White Haven. George Sauls, the Northern Area Engineer who oversees the operation of Philadelphia's five dams, including the Francis E. Walter Dam presented the plan.

Sauls began the ninth presentation of the Lehigh River Release Plan, by noting that he didn't expect to have this meeting because he thought that the plan had been firmed up over the last years, but because of the comments received particularly from the fishing community, changes were incorporated into this year's plan.

The 26 Francis E. Walter Flow Management Plan 2013 planned whitewater release dates are: May 11, 18, 25, 26; June 8, 9, 22, 23; July 6, 7, 20, 21, 27, 28; Aug. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. These dates are dependent on sufficient storage of water, which is a level of 1,370 feet elevation in the dam during the spring, between April 1 and the first release. The following dates are scheduled and are dependent on sufficient precipitation: Aug. 24, 25, 31; Sept. 1; and Oct. 12 and 13.

New for 2013, 12 dates have been set aside to provide lower flow rates for wading fishing: April 13-14, 20-21, 27-28; May 4-5, 12,19; Oct. 11 and 14. On these dates, the release will be set to match inflow to the FEW Dam with a 400 cubic feet per second maximum outflow. This lower flow reduces the depth to where anglers can more safely wade into more inaccessible sections of the Lehigh River.

The plan is dependent on the pool upstream of the FEW Dam achieving the 1,370 foot elevation, which provides 6.2 billion gallons of storage at 70 feet above baseline.

Planned releases are for 12 hours, beginning at 1 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. Recreational releases may be modified or cancelled due to extreme weather, either drought or storm. Notification of changes are posted on the USACE web sitewww.nap.usace.army.mil/fewalter. Contact stephen.rochette@usace.army.mil [1] to be placed on the Corps email notification list.

Storage is expected to begin with the next rainfall or snowfall. From the beginning of storage until the first release, the released flow will be, on weekends, equal to the inflow up to 1,000 cfs, and will be at inflow once the pool reaches 1,370 feet. The minimum release while storing will be 250 cfs. If there is insufficient precipitation during this period, the plan calls for these levels to be reduced to 750 cfs and 225 cfs respectively.

During the May and June period of fish spawning, the Corps will limit the fluctuation in the pool above the dam to elevations between 1,365 an 1,370 feet. Target whitewater releases are 800 cfs in May and 750 cfs in June. Whitewater releases will be 600-700 cfs in July, and 650-750 cfs in August. The release rates refer to releases on Saturdays. Sunday releases may be at a lower volume and for a shorter duration if water is limited.

What the Corps is calling the "Last Increment", a drawdown of the dam to end the recreational season, will be a four day controlled release, from Oct. 11 - 14. On Oct 11 and 14, the release will be limited to 400 cfs for fishing. On Oct. 12, 1,700 will be released, and on Oct 13, 1,000 cfs will be released.

The Francis E. Walter Dam was completed in 1961 for the single purpose of flood control. Recreation became an authorized project purpose in 1988. To accumulate the required reservoir, an access road was constructed across the top of dam in 2005. The integrity of the dam was upgraded through a grouting program for seepage control that was completed in 2010.