- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

ONTARIO, Ore. (AP) - What a difference a year makes.

Portions of southeastern Oregon are experiencing the highest snowpack levels due to above-normal precipitation that fell as snow throughout January, according to a report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon.

“The Owyhee Basin in Malheur County measures the highest in the state today for snow water equivalent at 153 percent of normal,” the report said.

Snow water equivalent is the amount of water that is stored inside the snowpack.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that most of Oregon’s major reservoirs were storing below average amounts as of the end of January, the report said.

The southeast corner of the state has been hit the hardest with a multi-year drought, resulting in current reservoir storage volumes of less than 30 percent of average, the report said.

Lake Owyhee and Warm Springs reservoirs in the Owyhee and Malheur basins are among the lowest in the state with 28 percent and 23 percent of average, respectively, according to the report.

However, with the good snowpack area farmers should have water this year, Jay Chamberlin, Owyhee Irrigation District manager, said.

“I think we are going to have a good water year, he said, but the jury is still out on whether Owyhee Reservoir will fill, he said.

Chamberlin said he flew over the Owyhee Basin recently and saw snow everywhere, even on lower valley floors at the southern end of the county, where he does not usually see it.

“Stock ponds are full and running over,” he said. “The ground is saturated.”

Rock Springs SNOTEL site, in the Malheur Basin, recorded the second highest Feb. 1 snowpack since records began in 1981, the report said. The site had 7.2 inches of snow water content, 26 inches of snow depth and was 153 percent of normal.

Water reports in Idaho are also good.

Precipitation since the water year started Oct. 1 closely mirrors the snowpack percent of averages,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in the Idaho report.

The West Central Mountains along with the Panhandle Region have received 110 percent to 120 percent of normal, he said.

The highest water year precipitation totals are 130 percent to 155 percent of average in the Owyhee, Bruneau and Salmon Falls basins, he said.

January precipitation in the Southside Snake River basins were less than the previous two months, but still above average for January, with the Owyhee Basin receiving the least precipitation in January at about 108 percent of average, according to the report.

The Southside Snake River basins continue to lead the state with the best snowpack with respect to normal, with all basins coming in at about 140 percent to 155 percent of normal for Feb. 1.

___

Information from: Argus Observer, http://www.argusobserver.com

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