From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 23 - 2/1/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Snowpack 60% of Average
2001 looks to be the second drought year in a row
by Rob Shaul

It's not too early for ranchers and irrigators to start thinking about which fields they should focus irrigation efforts on this summer, says Daryle Bennett of the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Pinedale. The lack of snow could also result in a second year of record forest fires in the West.

As of Tuesday, the basin-wide snowpack in the Upper Green River was just 60% of average, reported Mr. Bennett. This time last year, snowpack was 87% of average.

The low level of snowpack this late in the winter means another drought this summer, predicts Mr. Bennett. He says it would have to be an "incredible spring" with lots of snow for the snowpack to get above 80% of average. He does say that a rainy late spring and summer could help.

Last year's drought will compound the problem. The ground is a lot drier this year than it would normally be, says Mr. Bennett, and will soak up a lot of the runoff in the spring, further reducing irrigation and river flow levels.

As dry as it is, it's been worse. Mr. Bennett looked at decades-old records of snowpack levels for this time of year, and found several years that had lower levels, including 1977, 1968, and 1963. More recently, at this time in 1994, the basin-wide snowpack level was just 44% of average. <

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