▶️ Haystack Reservoir empty due to problem with control gate inside the dam


Haystack Reservoir near Madras is empty and it’s not because of the drought.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve had some issues with our emergency gate. We have a regulating gate and an emergency gate,” said Josh Bailey, general manager of the North Unit Irrigation District that maintains the dam at Haystack Reservoir.

“The regulating gate controls the flow. The emergency gate is essentially on and off. We’ve had some issues with it closing all the way and then opening.”

The reservoir was drained so Bureau of Reclamation engineers can get inside the dam in an area that’s normally underwater and assess the problem.

The water was offered for free to Madras area farmers.


Many local farmers irrigated newly planted crops that will get established before winter sets in, and then resume growing next spring.

“It is an unfortunate situation. This is our last option to get this fixed. We’ve tried everything else and unfortunately we did have to drain the reservoir. We hope to get this rectified and keep it full for another 20 to 30 years.

Misfortune for some means opportunities for others.


I watched anglers wade through waste deep mud to salvage a dozen fishing rods and hundreds of lures that other anglers dropped or lost.

“We have signs posted at public areas, asking people to stay out of the reservoir,” Bailey said. “There is extreme hazard especially around the inlet structure.”

Bailey says other than the sticky emergency gate, all other parts of the 68 year old Haystack Dam are working fine.

Engineers will assess the dam in November and make recommendations for repairs.

The irrigation district says they’ll make repairs as quickly as possible and begin refilling Haystack Reservoir, but it will probably remain empty for a couple of months.


Top Local Stories