Storms not enough to lift S. Oregon drought

An irrigation canal waiting for water on the Klamath Reclamation Project near Klamath Falls, Ore., March 10, 2010 (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
An irrigation canal waiting for water on the Klamath Reclamation Project near Klamath Falls, Ore., March 10, 2010 (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Early spring storms helped improve snowpacks and reservoir levels across Oregon, but not enough to lift drought concerns in the parched southern part of the state.

The latest report from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service on Friday shows snowpacks, the natural water storage system across the West, were at 36% for the Rogue and Umpqua Basins, 33% for the Klamath Basin and 46% in Lake County.

U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Julie Koeberle says streamflows in the Klamath Basin are forecast to be similar to 2001, when water was cut to a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border to protect threatened and endangered fish. Streamflows in the Rogue and Umpqua basins are likely to be similar to drought years in 1992, 1981 and 1977.

Koeberle says the outlook is not good for improving things before the summer dry season. Long-range forecasts call for warmer and dryer weather than normal.

Meanwhile, the 13 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Willamette Basin reservoirs are averaging 89 % full, and are on track to fill. Lost Creek reservoir on the Rogue is 92% full and on track. That is good news for whitewater rafters and irrigators with reservoir water rights.

Conditions improved to the north, where the Willamette Basin, containing the bulk of Oregon’s population, had 61% of normal snowpack, and the Upper Deschutes and Crooked river basins in Central Oregon had 62%.

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