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Washington snowpack, reservoirs in fair shape

Snowpack and mountain reservoir storage are relatively good in Washington. Oregon, southern Idaho and California are not doing as well.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on January 3, 2018 9:59AM

The Liberator chair lift operates at Mission Ridge Ski Area south of Wenatchee, Wash., on New Year’s Day. With a 29-inch snow base at the 6,820-foot summit, the resort needs more snow, as do the Cascade Mountains in general at 93 percent of normal.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

The Liberator chair lift operates at Mission Ridge Ski Area south of Wenatchee, Wash., on New Year’s Day. With a 29-inch snow base at the 6,820-foot summit, the resort needs more snow, as do the Cascade Mountains in general at 93 percent of normal.


YAKIMA, Wash. — Washington state’s overall snowpack is 93 percent of normal and Yakima Basin reservoir storage is more solid at 133 percent of average.

Those are Jan. 1 readings from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

While the five mountain reservoirs serving 464,000 acres of farmland in the Yakima Basin are doing well at 56 percent of their 1 million-acre-foot capacity, 700,000 acre-feet more will be needed from the snowpack to meet farmland irrigation needs.

Snowpack is a big deal and needs to be better, but Scott Pattee, the NRCS water supply specialist for Washington, isn’t worried.

“It’s early. During La Nina (warm, wet weather cycles) the season tends to start slow and then build and become closer to normal by the end of February,” Pattee said.

The northern half of Washington is best in snowpack and northern Idaho and Montana are doing well, he said. But Oregon and California are more problematic, being below the jet stream and too warm for much snow, he said.

“The latest CPC (Climatic Prediction Center) models puts most of Washington on equal chances for normal precipitation and temperatures for January, and the three-month outlook is for below-normal temps and above-normal precip, which means good snowfall,” Pattee said.

Snow water equivalent snowpack in the Spokane basin was 101 percent of normal on Jan. 2. The upper Columbia Basin (Okanogan and Methow rivers) was 113 percent. The central Columbia (Chelan, Entiat and Wenatchee) was 88 percent, the upper Yakima was 81 percent and the lower Yakima 90 percent. Walla Walla was 61 percent, the lower Snake River was 92 percent, the lower Columbia was 77 percent, south Puget Sound (from Cascade crest to lowlands) was 84 percent, central Puget Sound 86 percent, north Puget Sound 123 percent and the Olympics 105 percent.

A storm right after Christmas dumped 20 inches of snow in the upper Chelan Basin putting Lyman Lake, 6,000 feet, at 90 percent of normal and Harts Pass, 6,500 feet between Methow and Skagit, at 126 percent.

Stevens Pass, at 3,950 feet elevation at the SNOTEL (snow telemetry site), is 104 percent of normal and Blewett Pass, 4,200 feet, is 74 percent of normal.

Chris Lynch, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist in Yakima, said he’s grateful for increased precipitation in the last days of December.

“We were kind of hurting before that. We’d been below 30 percent of average precipitation most of the month,” he said.

While snowpack has been hurting Yakima Basin reservoirs have been doing well from rain, he said.



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