Above-average precipitation in January boosted snow levels in the central Idaho mountains to their highest levels in more than a decade.
At Mores Creek Summit above Boise the snow was 6 feet deep, or 123 percent of average on Wednesday, according to manual measurements taken by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“That’s the best snowpack for Feb. 1 since 1983, which was an extremely good year,” hydrologist Phil Morrisey said.
Automated snowpack readings across southern Idaho showed equally encouraging measurements. The Boise River Basin was 112 percent of average, the Weiser-Payette River Basin 119 percent of average and the Owyhee River Basin 146 percent of average.
“In this area it looks like January snowpack was even more abundant than December, based on the increased percentages,” Morrisey said.
The high snowpack levels should be good news for irrigators and boaters who will need above-average spring runoff to fill reservoirs that dropped to near record lows last summer.
“It’s hard to say if the reservoirs will refill, but based on current conditions it should be a pretty normal water year for farmers and a pretty good boating season on Lucky Peak,” Morrisey said.
Since the beginning of the water year last Oct. 1, Boise has received 6.42 inches of precipitation, or 1.39 inches above normal, and Pocatello has received 4.94 inches, or 0.72 of an inch above normal, according to the National Weather Service.
Elsewhere, snowpack was 94 percent of average in southeastern Idaho’s Bear River Basin, 136 percent of average in the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, 110 of average in the Upper Snake River Valley, and 95 percent of average in the Clearwater River Basin.
“January was not as good for northern Idaho, the Panhandle and the Clearwater as it was for southern Idaho and especially the central mountains,” said Peter Palmer, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise.
But recent rainfall should help North Idaho. At Dworshak Dam on the Clearwater River, project manager Randy Ryan said the reservoir level jumped a foot after the rains began Tuesday. It was 96 feet below full Wednesday.