U.S. Water News Online
SACRAMENTO -- State hydrologists typically strap on
snowshoes for their monthly survey of snow depths near South Lake
Tahoe. The next day, they needed only tennis shoes.
The last Sierra snow survey of the season found the average snow
depth along the 400-mile-long range was just 29 percent of normal,
the lowest since 1988. At Echo Summit, near Lake Tahoe, hydrologists
found only bare earth.
The snowpack was 27 percent of normal for this time of year in the
northern section of the Sierra, 33 percent of normal in the central
Sierra and 24 percent to the south, the Department of Water Resources
The Sierra snowpack is important because it acts as a massive
frozen reservoir for the state, releasing water in spring and summer
for cities and farmers.
Despite this year's dry conditions, state water managers remain
optimistic about water deliveries in the months ahead. A previous
string of wet winters has left the state's reservoirs and aquifers
"The reason that we don't panic when there's a 27 percent snowpack
is because of the investment that happened in this state, you know,
50 and 75 years ago. And it's our turn to invest," said Lester Snow,
director of the Department of Water Resources.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the dismal snowpack to promote his
$4.5 billion proposal to build two dams, a week after his plan was
derailed by Senate Democrats.
"As we experience climate change and the resulting lower annual
snow packs, it is critical that we increase the amount of runoff
captured by building additional water storage facilities," the
governor said in a statement.
Jim Evans, a spokesman for Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento,
said Schwarzenegger's dam proposal "is premature," although more
reservoirs may eventually fit into an overall water strategy being
developed by Senate Democrats.
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