Bighorn River releases to remain at 1,850cfs

Current Snow Water Equivalent Current, Previous, and Average Lake elevations


Today’s conference call with Reclamation indicates they’re taking a wait-and-see conservative approach to the current inflow forecasts. While the recent storms bolstered a lagging snowpack, it wasn’t enough for them to be overly concerned with the barely 15 feet of storage left in the lake before the lake elevation strays in to the flood pool. [Note that the average lake elevation for this day is nearly 20 feet lower].

It was announced that river releases will remain at 1,850cfs for this week and presumably the following week while Reclamation continues to monitor conditions closely. Steve Davies, who led the conference call, assured stakeholders that should conditions change, the Bureau is ready to react at a moment’s notice.

For more detailed data, please click the River Status link above.

Ramp project continues

he upper ramp at Bighorn FAS looks a little different than it did last week. FWP has broken up and removed the old ramp (now sitting in the background), and the contractor is waiting out this winter weather before beginning the final stages. In the meantime, the ramp is usable, but quite muddy.

Work set to begin on upper Bighorn FAS ramp

Thanks to the Bighorn River Alliance and its nearly 1,000 members, work to replace the upper ramp at Bighorn Fishing Access Site is set to begin tomorrow, Tuesday, April 9, 2013. The Alliance, whose mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the Bighorn River and its fishery, has donated $17,500 or half of the cost of the ramp replacement. High water and heavy use has taken its toll on the popular takeout spot, and the new ramp will be angled downstream to prevent future wear an tear during high water, and make things quite a bit safer for anglers who stage their boats there during put-in and take-out.

The work will be done in two stages: Starting tomorrow, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks crews will make much-needed repairs to the lower ramp, including filling in a deep hole at the end of the ramp. Next, the upper ramp will be broken up and removed. These preliminary steps will be done this week (barring any unforeseen show stopping weather). Next week, the contractor will be on site to begin landscaping and preparing the grade for several sections of ramp that will be installed. This work is expected to take two weeks, but may extend longer if more wintery or wet weather arrives.

Anglers and boaters are asked to avoid the upper ramp during this time, and exercise caution at the lower ramp. If possible, plan a few extra minutes to take out at the lower ramp.

The Bighorn River Alliance deserves special thanks for their contribution. To recognize their efforts, join us in calling the new, upper ramp the Alliance Ramp, and be sure you thank any Alliance member or director the next time you see one. Thank you, Alliance!!

Dry spring and summer forecast for Western states

[From USDA]

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 – March streamflow forecasts show a decline in nearly every Western state and basin, according to water and climate experts.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service National Water and Climate Center hydrologists predict dry conditions to continue from the less-than-average precipitation during February, which indicates reduced spring and summer water supply for much of the West.

Streamflow forecast

“With only one month remaining in the snow season, it’s highly unlikely the snowpack will recover to normal levels over the Four Corner States,” hydrologist Tom Perkins said.

Although other parts of the country got more snow, it didn’t have impact in the western mountains, he said.

“What fell in the West didn’t really amount to much,” Perkins said. “New Mexico, Utah and Colorado are especially vulnerable, because their reservoirs are at low levels due to sustained drought conditions.”

At this point, it looks like water supply conditions will end up below average for most of the West’s rivers. Water resource managers will need to make some difficult decisions in the coming months due to this shortage, Perkins said.

There are a few exceptions to the dry forecasts. Spring and summer streamflow forecasts as of March 1, are calling for near normal levels across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana. Below normal flows are predicted over the rest of the Western U.S.

Although some are at normal levels now, March 1 snowmelt runoff forecasts trends indicated worsening conditions as compared to the Feb. 1 report. Forecasts decreased 5 to 10 percent in Washington and Oregon; 10 to 20 percent in Montana, Idaho and Utah; 10 to 15 percent in Colorado. Forecasts increased 5 to 10 percent in north-central New Mexico, but this was not enough to make up the shortfall.

“Although NRCS’ streamflow forecasts do not directly predict drought, they provide valuable information about future water supply in states where snowmelt accounts for as much as 50 to 80 percent of seasonal runoff,” according to Perkins.

In addition to precipitation, streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm into spring and summer.

The March forecast is the third of six monthly forecasts issued each year between January and June by the national center. The forecast compares the current level of water content in snowpack in the 12 Western states with historical data to help the region’s farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and other stakeholders make informed decisions about water use and future availability.

The snowfall, air temperature and numerous other factors taken from remote climate sites ultimately contribute to water supply. Typically, decision-makers and water managers wait until April for a more complete picture that accounts for these variables before making final management decisions.

NRCS will continue to monitor levels across the Western states to provide the most up-to-date water supply information each month.

“USDA streamflow forecasts play a vital role in the livelihood of many Americans,” said Jason Weller, NRCS acting chief. “With much of this region greatly affected by drought, our experts will continue to monitor snowpack data and ensure that NRCS is ready to help landowners plan and prepare for water supply conditions.”

Since 1935, NRCS has conducted snow surveys and issued regular water supply forecasts. NRCS installs, operates and maintains an extensive, automated system called Snow Telemetry, or SNOTEL, designed to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States and Alaska.

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