U.S. Water News Online
BOISE, Idaho -- After several years of drought, spring
showers and cool temperatures are combining to bring a near-normal
water year around most of Idaho.
Meeting in Boise, the Idaho Water Supply Committee predicted an
average water year statewide, except in the extreme southern portion
of the state near the Utah-Nevada state lines.
``Given what we've had, we'll take average,'' said Hal Anderson of
the Department of Water Resources.
A weak El Nino, the periodic warming of tropical Pacific ocean
surface temperatures that alters global weather patterns, had been
pushing moist air away from Idaho and keeping temperatures above
normal throughout the winter months, National Weather Service
hydrologist Jay Breidenbach said.
But in March, when El Nino subsided and ocean temperatures
returned to normal, rain and snowfall increased in most of the state
-- and some areas received 150 percent of normal precipitation.
Additionally, the cooler temperatures have allowed the snowpack to
remain at higher elevations and reduced water consumption by farmers.
Idaho Power Co., which supplies electricity for 400,000 customers
in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, stands to profit from increased
flows at Brownlee Reservoir, which feeds the company's three major
hydrogeneration plants on the Snake River in Hells Canyon.
``We're planning to go into the summer season with a full
reservoir,'' said Tim Brewer, a water engineer for Idaho Power.
The picture darkens further up the Snake River. In south-central
Idaho, majestic Shoshone Falls will remain nearly shut off through
the season. Only a few hundred cubic feet per second trickled over
the 212-foot vertical drop this past weekend, and even that will
likely end soon, Brewer said.
Not since 1999 has the average streamflow exceeded 2,000 cfs at
The drought picture also remains bleak in extreme southeastern
Idaho, where inflows at Bear Lake are expected to reach only 10
percent of normal. Only in two previous years, 1936 and 1993, has
there been less water in storage at the end of April.
Meanwhile, the Boise and Payette River systems in the west central
mountains are expected to fill, or nearly fill, officials said. Water
managers in the Payette system have already drafted some as flood
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