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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of February 20 - 26, 2002


Mid-winter water levels drop slightly

Express Staff Writer

Water levels slipped across much of Idaho during January and February, and analysts say the state needs normal or above normal precipitation for the rest of the winter to maintain earlier streamflow projections.

Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center forecaster Janet Kellam explains the operation of a precipitation gauge at the Ketchum Ranger District offices in Ketchum. Snowpack experts say more precipitation is needed this winter for an average snowpack and spring stream flows to prevail. Express photos by Willy Cook

"All trend lines are beginning to point below average, and thatís absolutely the last thing we need," Idaho Department of Water Resources Spokesman Dick Larsen said. "We need the weather to turn around and give us more snow again."

Precipitation for the water year is near normal in the Big Wood River and Lost River basins, but the state-wide tally has slipped to 87 percent of average. In mid-January, the state-wide figure was 103 percent of average.

Snowpacks range from about 75 percent of average in the upper Snake River basin to about 110 percent of average in the stateís Panhandle.

"The outlook is not quite as bright as it was last month," Larsen said.

Many of the regionís reservoirs are far from full.

Magic Reservior is nearly empty at 9 percent of capacity, the lowest mid-winter level since 1995.

Little Wood Reservoir is 30 percent of capacity, and Mackay Reservoir is 43 percent of capacity.

"Water users are advised to monitor snowpack conditions closely," the Natural Resources

Conservation Service reported in a mid-winter report. "Lack of moisture in March and April and during the snowmelt season will cause a decrease in actual runoff this spring and summer."

Streamflow forecasts decreased slightly from last month and range from 80 to 95 percent of average. The lowest is 65 percent in the Bear River and Snake River below Milner Dam. The highest is 115 percent in the Panhandle.

"Letís hope the storms keep coming for the second half of winter," the service concluded.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.