Friday, April 4, 2014

Snowpacks mixed as irrigation season begins

Magic Reservoir water level higher than last spring

Express Staff Writer

Snowpacks around Idaho as of April 1 vary from well below average in the Little Wood drainage to well above average in eastern Idaho.
Courtesy graphic

    Regional snowpacks are running at 85 percent of average this week after the official start of the irrigation season on April 1. Some irrigators are bracing for another dry growing season.
    The Natural Resources Conservation Service tracks snowpack depths day to day, comparing them with averages recorded since 1981. The federal agency measures snowpacks in the Big Wood Basin at nine upper-elevation monitoring stations stretching from Galena Summit south to the Soldier Ranger Station in the Camas Creek drainage near Fairfield.
    The Big Wood basin, including Camas Creek, is at 85 percent of average, with specific locations showing more or less snowpack. Dollarhide Summit west of Ketchum shows only 76 percent of average, while Vienna Mine north of Ketchum shows 105 percent of average. The snowpack at the Camas Creek Divide is at 87 percent of average.
    The NRCS reports that the Little Wood Basin, to the east of the Wood River Valley, is the driest region in Idaho this week, with only 74 percent of average snowpack.
    Other Idaho regions fared better than the Wood River Valley with regard to precipitation. The Henry’s Fork/Teton Basin snowpack is recorded at 108 percent of average. The Snake Basin in eastern Idaho is at 127 percent this week. Snow-water equivalents for all of the basins in Idaho tend to be slightly higher.
    Last year, Blaine County was one of 19 Idaho counties to receive a drought declaration from the Idaho governor, which allowed the emergency diversion of water from some riverbed water rights for crops.
    Lynn Harmon, manager of Big Wood Canal Co., said on Thursday that Magic Reservoir is now 30 percent higher than it was last year on the same date. The canal company in late spring and summer delivers water from Magic Reservoir to thousands of acres of farms in southern Idaho.
    Harmon said the Big Wood Canal Co. usually provides water for irrigation about 150 days each year. Due to a lack of water last summer, the company only provided water for irrigation for 58 days. Harmon said this year he plans to provide about 70 to 90 days.
    “If it stays cool and damp between now and the 15th of May, it would be a great benefit,” Harmon said.
    Kelly Shannon, manager of Wood River Irrigation District No. 45, said he plans to start diverting water from the Big Wood River at the Bellevue headgate at the end of April. The irrigation district supplies water to farms and ranches in the Bellevue Triangle.
    “People are trying to put grain in the ground right now, but muddy weather has been causing a problem,” Shannon said. “If it doesn’t get sun on it, the grain can rot in the ground.”    
    “Either too wet, or too dry. That’s farming.” he said.

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