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Snowpack is concerning irrigators
Areas that feed Upper Klamath Lake at average snow depth of 68 percent of normal
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 2/7/12
To date, the Klamath Basin has had about 4.5 inches less precipitation than normal this year — a common shortage around the region, but especially worrisome for Basin farmers and ranchers who rely on snowpack for irrigation water through the warm months.
There are no significant weather fronts on the horizon, said Jay Stockton, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service in Medford.
‘No snowpack to count on’
“We’re scared, to put it simply,” said Gary Wright, president of the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents Klamath Reclamation Project producers. “This is a lot like 2010. The lake level is a little better, but really with no snowpack to count on, it doesn’t do us a lot of good.
“All that’s left is to pray for rain. That’s the only backup we’ve got.”
Upper Klamath Lake, Project irrigators’ source for surface water, is at 4,141.17 feet; it has to be at 4,142.2 feet by April 30, according to the biological opinion that protects endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers.
The lake is recharged by snowpack in the mountains. As snowpack melts through the summer, it sends water into the tributaries that feed the lake, providing water for Upper and Lower Basin irrigators.
As of Monday, the snowpack areas that feed the lake are an average 68 percent of normal; the lowest is 45 percent of normal and the highest is 108 percent of normal.
Region wide
Starting at the beginning of the water year, Sept. 1, precipitation levels coming up more than 4 inches short is standard around the region, Stockton said. “Just about everybody’s below to some extent,” he said.
Alturas is about 4.4 inches below, Medford is 4.6 inches short, and Mount Shasta has a staggering 13.57-inch deficit. Crater Lake has 60 inches on the ground; normal is nearly 250 inches, and more than 530 inches for the year.
However, the three-month outlook is a little more promising, Stockton said.
So far January and February precipitation in the Basin are 0.72 inches below normal. Through April, “you’re below normal on temperature and on the line between normal and above normal on precipitation,” Stockton said. “So there is hope.”



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