BLM to drain Little Hyatt Lake, maybe forever

Because of a failing dam, the Bureau of Land Management began to drain Little Hyatt Lake, a recreation amenity in the Greensprings area east of Ashland.

Once empty &

which BLM officials say will take about four weeks &

the federal agency will then decide if the dam should be removed, which would eliminate the lake.

"It's become a public safety liability," Ed Reilly, an environmental planner with BLM, said. "Heavy floods could break the dam. At this time we don't feel it can be repaired. The structure is in just such poor state."

He said BLM will issue an environmental assessment report in the fall on whether it should repair or remove the dam. In the meantime, residents of the Greensprings have organized a community meeting on Wednesday, 6 p.m. in the yurt behind the Greensprings Inn on Highway 66. BLM officials plan to attend.

"Little Hyatt Lake is very picturesque," said Suzi Given, a board member of the community group Friends of Greensprings. "It's full of native trout and it's on scenic byway. That old dam is what makes it a beautiful spot."

She said Little Hyatt Lake is an important resource for the Greensprings, being a location that many come to fish or hike. The Pacific Crest Trail passes by the Little Hyatt Lake.

She added that until recently Greensprings residents were under the impression that the dam would be repaired.

"All of a sudden they are cutting notches in dam and letting water out," she said. "As recently as a couple weeks ago, [BLM] said it didn't need to come down."

She believes that once the lake is drained, the fate of the dam will be sealed.

"It seems like a fait accompli," she said. "If they get the water out of lake we have a lost cause."

Given said many Greensprings residents are wondering why the BLM surprised them with the decision to drain the lake.

"We've always worked well with the BLM," she said. "A lot of people are smelling a rat. It seems like someone is pulling strings above local [BLM]. It could all be a political move to say we took out one more dam, but fish passage is not an issue here. The community wants the dam to stay. Something just doesn't feel right, so we're having this meeting."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or .

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