Canyon Lake soon will be drained of water and closed to boaters so Salt River Project can perform scheduled maintenance at Mormon Flat and Horse Mesa dams.
The drawdown begins Sept. 29 and is expected to last until late January, according to the power and water utility.
Last fall, Apache Lake was drained during a similar drawdown for maintenance work at Horse Mesa Dam.
According to SRP, Canyon Lake will be gradually lowered to about 50 feet below the normal levels. Currently, the water level is at an elevation of 1,658 feet, and the reservoir, formed by Mormon Flat Dam, is 96 percent full.
During this time, the U.S. Forest Service will close the lake to all recreational boating and motorized vehicles. Also closed will be the Canyon Lake Marina Campground.
The Dolly Steamboat, a popular cruise excursion, will suspend operations from October until the lake is refilled.
But the Lakeside Restaurant and Cantina will remain open, as will the Acacia Picnic Area.
Art Wirtz, Mesa District ranger for the Tonto National Forest, said officials will keep the lake open to foot access as long as possible, as anglers will find good fishing in the smaller lake.
Following the drawdown, structures and equipment, including the dams’ hydroelectric facilities, will be examined for wear and repaired if necessary. In addition, SRP will perform channel improvement work downstream of Horse Mesa Dam to maintain performance of the hydroelectric pump and turbine, and to improve barge access to the power plant.
Drawing down the lake will prevent any water from being spilled as a result of dam maintenance and will limit the loss of hydroelectric generation during times of lower energy demand.
Also, Wirtz said four sunken boats may be raised from the lake floor.
Finally, the Arizona Game and Fish Department plans to install fish habitats similar to a project completed during Apache Lake’s drawdown. The lakes have smooth bottoms that are not conducive to the breeding of fish, and these habitats are man-made structures that include places to hide.
SRP uses the reservoirs for flood control, but utility officials are confident there won’t be a problem even during a wet winter.
As project manager Roger Baker explained, the drawdown is taking place during the dry autumn months, and during a time when climatologists are forecasting dry weather due to a La Niña weather pattern.
Also, Roosevelt Lake is at less than half capacity, giving SRP plenty of storage space in case of significant precipitation.
Finally, Baker said, Canyon Lake itself is being drained more than necessary for the maintenance work.
At the completion of the drawdown project, a grand re-opening event has been scheduled for Feb. 9 by the Canyon Lake Marina, the Lakeside Restaurant and Cantina and the Dolly Steamboat.