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Region’s basins looking at water in abundance

There is no shortage of water across the state based on a report released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Precipitation is above average since the water year started Oct. 1, 2016, and several other basins are seeing the highest snowpack in 20 years.

March saw an abundant, early runoff and many streams set records highs. Rains during the last month also fed reservoirs early in the month. By mid-month, temperature dropped slowing the snowmelt. However, it is now ready to melt again and could create rapid increases in streamflow if additional rainfall is received.

Northern Idaho, the Panhandle Region and Clearwater River basin, is the closest to normal across the state for snowpack conditions this year. The Salmon River basin snow is 132 percent of median, its best since 2006. Precipitation in March varied across the state, the Clearwater and Salmon River basins each received 180 to 220 percent of average. These basins also marked the state’s lowest year-to-date precipitation with only 125 to 145 percent of average, the highest being 190 percent in the Little Wood and Big Lost basins.

“There are no expected water supply shortages expected across 99 percent of the state,” said Shawn Nield, Snow Survey Program manager for NRCS Idaho. “The greatest concern, especially in southern Idaho, is too much snow and how to safely release the excess water.”

Clearwater River Basin

For the Clearwater River Basin, precipitation in January was about 50 percent of average, February at 170 percent, and March about 210 percent. Water year-to-date was recorded at 124 percent of average, the lowest in the state.

Early March storms increased the snowpack to above normal conditions, but by the end March the basin was returned to near normal snowpack conditions.

Dworshak Reservoir is 97 percent of average, which is 67 percent of capacity. Streamflow forecasts are between 112 and 115 percent of average; these include the Selway (113 percent) and Lochsa (114 percent) rivers near Lowell.

The report indicates near normal water supplies are expected, and an enjoyable fishing and rafting season is anticipated.

Salmon River Basin

The Salmon River Basin received 185 percent of average precipitation in March, down from 250 percent in February. January was about 90 percent of average. Water year-to-date precipitation is 143 percent of average.

Salmon River Basin snowpack is 132 percent of median.

Streamflow forecasts range from 140 to 185 percent of average depending on the location; including the Salmon River (146 Percent) at White Bird. The report indicates above normal higher-elevation snowpack will keep water levels high deep into the summer for the Salmon River and its tributaries.


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