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Basin snowpack at 37 percent of normal;
No predictions for irrigation season
The current storage is 283,000 acre-feet. Average storage is 275,000 acre-feet."
  By LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News 1/13/15
     Basin snowpack levels are higher than last year, but still below average, according to a new water report.

   The Oregon Basin Outlook Report published this month by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said as of Jan. 1, Klamath Basin snowpack was 37 percent of normal. Last year at that time, snowpack was only 19 percent of normal.

   The Klamath Basin joined Rogue and Umpqua basins as having the lowest snowpack levels in the state.

   Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the preliminary numbers indicate the Klamath Project might experience   another water shortage this year. But, he emphasized, it’s too early to know what these numbers could mean for water storage and the 2015 irrigation season.

   “At this point, it’s sort of like throwing a dart,” Addington   said.

   According to the report, about 60 percent of Oregon’s snow season is yet to come.

   “A big storm that dumps snow could mean a lot for long-term storage,” said Chris Gebauer, a soil scientist   for NRCS.

   Gebauer noted that although snowpack is low, the Klamath Basin has received a lot of rain.

   In the period from the beginning of the water year, Oct. 1, to Jan. 1, precipitation was 120 percent of average, according to the report. Precipitation was 138 percent of average in December, the report said.

   The entire state has been wet and unseasonably warm since the water year began Oct. 1, according to the report.

   Addington pointed out that the precipitation is filling Upper Klamath Lake.  

   According to the report, storage at Upper Klamath Lake has 60,000 acre-feet more than it did at this time last year. The current storage is 283,000 acre-feet. Average storage is 275,000 acre-feet.

   “That’s really good. Getting the lake full is a priority,” Addington said.  

   Addington said the other good thing is the rain has saturated the soil, which could give farmers a head start preparing fields for planting.

   “That’s a really big deal,” Addington said.

   Assuming normal weather conditions occur from now until the end of the forecast period, Basin streamflows from April to September are forecast to be 39 percent to 56 percent of average, the report said.

   “I think if we don’t see improvement we’re going to be looking at a shortage,” Addington said.

   The region with the highest percent of normal precipitation — but not the snowiest — this season are Lake County and the Goose Lake area, which have received 123 percent of average water year-to-date precipitation, according to the report.  

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN



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