PORTLAND -- Deputies say lower water levels on the Columbia River mean increased dangers for boaters, especially with so many boaters taking to the water for Labor Day weekend.
Snags that were once beneath the surface are now exposed and many already shallow areas become impassable.
“So between now and Tuesday we’re expecting the water levels to maybe go down as much as four feet down here,” said Todd Shanks with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped spilling water over the Bonneville Dam and other hydro-electric dams. As a result, the Columbia River is expected to drop dramatically.
For boaters, that means an increased likelihood of contact with sand bars, debris and rocks, especially near the shore.
“From a safety standpoint, Jet Skiers, they travel at a very high rate of speed and if that Jet Ski meets something on the bottom, sends them over the handlebars, they could be thrown onto an oncoming boat,” Shanks said.
Deputies pointed out dry weather has left the levels on the Willamette River noticeably lower too. Previously submerged sandbars are now above water and some popular channels are now less than five feet deep.
It's more reason for the marine patrol deputies to check in with boaters. The Corps of Engineers is shutting off the dams up river, storing water for a variety of reasons, including for winter power generation.
Low water levels will likely continue through September and possibly into October if weather stays dry and warm.
KGW reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report.